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January 9, 2014

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If we pull together, this year can be a turning point

2014 begins! What do we want to be? Where do we want to go? How can we get there?  

From an environmental perspective, these questions require a review of general guidelines that will help get our “ducks in a row”. For starters, it’s important to remember that all animals (including humans) and plants must make use of a habitat that provides food, water, and shelter in a suitable arrangement.  

That last part is key, because if you can’t get to the food, water or shelter, or if it’s polluted, it does you no good. The poor and homeless can especially testify to that.  

Because all life on Earth depends on a suitable habitat and a healthy ecosystem, what can be done to guarantee sustainability now and in the future? 

Keep in mind four other things as you ponder: 1) As population increases there is growing demand on a resource-constrained planet; 2) We live on a planet with ever-changing climate patterns (whether our fault or not) and that fact requires adaptation for species survival; 3) The most biodiverse ecosystem is strongest; 4) Energy is required for life (ultimate source is sun).   

That’s a lot of balls in the air as we think about solutions. We must also consider whose responsibility it is to make us sustainable. What can we do at home or in social, school or neighborhood networks? What should our local, state, national or other nations do? 

We can’t cover all possible solutions in one column. However, here are some thoughts to help us reach more sustainable harmony with the planet on which we depend for life:   

Set up goals for sustainability 

As the Cheshire Cat told Alice, it doesn’t matter which way you choose if you don’t know where you want to go. For example, determining how much to divert from landfill waste both from homes and regionally.  

How much can we increase recycling amounts?  

How many trees should we plant to help slow climate change disruptions, prevent flooding and absorb stormwater? 

How many houses should be built with energy efficiency in mind, thereby reducing demands for energy from unhealthy coal and nuclear sources? 

How much land should be designated for growing local food and to support farmers? What steps could be taken to establish access to healthy food and provide green farming, weatherization and manufacturing jobs? 

How many cars can we divert from roads by creating more transportation choices through expansion of greenways, bikeways, and bus use?  

Work for habitat in a suitable arrangement

Food, water and shelter all require land. Yet we have established land-use requirements that allow for their disappearance. We allow the destruction of wetlands, filling floodplains, water pollution, and excessive impervious paving for development purposes.  We hinder natural or edible landscaping and chickens in the city. We isolate ourselves from daily living supplies and diverse community life through urban sprawl and R-1 zoning.    

These patterns cause limited transportation choices, thereby contributing to more air pollution from vehicles and increases in asthma cases. We have lost access to farmland, forests and biodiversity by cutting up land into small, unconnected parcels. 

There’s plenty to do—and remedies, too. We’ve started on some, and many entrepreneurs have healthier green solutions and jobs in the pipeline. You can start today with a changeover to LED light bulbs in your home as energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs leave the market. Support a transition to sun and wind as our energy sources of the future.  

Bottom line for sustainability: Use less energy.  Use less stuff. Avoid waste. Share space with humans and other life in a suitable arrangement.  It’s all connected.  

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January 9, 2014