No Man Is An Island – What Is Real Sustainability?

Today’s posting is a bit of a rant about attitude and Plans - blueprint - houseperspective.

Some people think they are making changes to live more sustainably when they’re not.

And the reason for this is twofold:

  1. they’re only considering one aspect of their lives, such as power consumption and/or
  2. they’re only considering themselves, and not how what they do impact on the bigger world (including other people’s ability to live sustainably)

I have some relatively new neighbours near me. When they bought the property, they made it clear to the immediate neighbours that they were going to rebuild… and replace the existing house (which was old, rundown and performed very badly from an environmental perspective) with the new passive solar, low environmental impact home. It was to be single-storey, to minimise the (solar access) impact on the streetscape and neighbours – who would be consulted during development of the plans.  And it was to have a permaculture-inspired food-producing garden.

‘Great!’ all neighbours thought. ‘These new people will be fantastic neighbours and the sustainability of our little patch of the Earth will be improved.’ 🙂

Then, out of the blue, the neighbours were advised by the local government about lodgement of the plans and how we could view and comment on them. Not a good start for a sustainable relationship.

And then came the sting.

The plans show that our new neighbours have been seduced by the spin of people who claim to be fostering sustainability, when in fact there just fanning the flames of conventional, selfish one-upmanship.

Our new neighbours are opting for the current fashion of a large glamorous house that purports to be environmentally sustainable because it claims to be passive solar. But…

  • it’s two-storey and, because of its design and location, will dramatically shade the immediate neighbours in winter – which is when they need the sun to warm their homes and gardens and moods 🙁
  • the layout of the house means that its grey water will not be used
  • the house and paving will occupy nearly the whole block, with gradually no room of food-producing garden or infiltration of stormwater on-site
  • water use has been given token consideration:
  • although they are proposing to install a water tank, only just over half the roof is being used to collect water
  • there is proposed to be no cover on the planned swimming pool
  • proposed water using fittings and appliances are to be medium water rated, rather than water efficient

– and that’s without considering the environmental impact of the materials and construction methods proposed or the social impact on the neighbours.

Although the new neighbours may believe their thinking global and acting local, they’re really thinking personal and acting local. They don’t seem to be giving much thought to thinking global.

Living sustainably means living in a way that can be sustained, in perpetuity, in harmony with the environment, both physical and social. And to do that we must look outward and consider all the impact of our activities…not look inward on one aspect of our lives.

Think global, act local.

Have you had a similar experience…or made this mistake yourself?  Let me know in the Reply box below.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!