Sustainable Living

We need a new human right: a right not to be poisoned. Without such a right, there will probably never again be another day in our history when our children are not constantly exposed to danger, says Julian Cribb.

On 1 April 2013, I put out a news item announcing that the Government of India had set a Sustainable Consumption Line, and all those consuming above that line would have action taken against them. Several readers wrote to me asking for more details, some even wanted to write to the Government congratulating it for the bold step. Eventually, of course, people figured out it was a spoof.

We live in a global society where people and products continuously criss-cross the planet, but we seem to constantly exclude, or at least forget to mention, one of the means for this transportation in the sustainability discussion: air travel.

Only two human-made structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill in USA. Startling, and not a very pleasant fact to know!

I am now seven months into my experiment of living without money and fossil fuels for a year, and my journey so far has been fascinating. When I first decided to go money-free last year, I set about putting in place the basic infrastructure I would need to survive. The first essential part of this jigsaw was shelter. For this I turned to an amazing project called Freecycle, and through it I found a caravan that someone else didn’t want any more.

What we call dirt, mud, soil or even earth is a wonderful ecosystem of microbial and insect life that sustains all plant life and is a fundamental part of the larger natural ecosystem of the planet. It is a crucial participant in the various cycles of nature such as the water and carbon cycles, plants and dirt too have a symbiotic relationship where one cannot exist without the other. Without the plants, the dirt would be washed away to sea leaving behind barren wastelands where hardly anything would grow.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE To tell how far down a certain path you’ll walk once you’ve taken that vital first step. Ten months ago I decided that I was going to live as oil-free a life as possible. Originally this consisted of me using no plastic, only buying products from local craftspeople, having no bin and eating nothing but local, organic and vegan food.

It all started about 20 years ago when climate change and renewable energy were still not popular and surely not glamorous. My curiosity to understand evolution, patterns and design in nature led to a growing exploration of its various processes. From mimicking evolution to creating artificial life, to capturing energy the way plants do, each experiment added to what was still just scientific curiosity. These meanderings one day led to a completely new dimension, that of architecture. This happened in a beautiful dense forest in Pennsylvania.

How a small group of people can deal with the economic, ecological and social realities connected with building water consciousness in a community.

Water supply to citizens is supposedly the duty of Governments and municipal corporations. Yet there are enough indications today that very soon many communities and neighbourhoods would have to manage it themselves – protecting their sources of water, regulating its usage and treating it properly for reuse or safe disposal.

One of the questions that man has always had to live with is about the nature of his actions. On the fringe of one’s action choices we may have doubts – was it truly the best I could do? Or do I really know all the other solutions that have been tried?