Some Unsustainable Practices
There has been a lot of talk recently about sustainability. How might sustainability be applied to our daily lives, and how could it be relevant to urban design?
First of all, sustainability is not optional. It's not something we choose to do or not do. A behavior or practice is either sustainable or it isn't. If it isn't sustainable, than that behavior or practice ceases at some point whether or not we make a conscious choice to do so. So when it comes to sustainability, one shouldn't think about it terms of individual choice or freedom. One is free to do whatever one wants within the limits set by reality. For example, I can jump as high as I want to, which happens to be just a little over two feet. The natural limits of reality prevent me from jumping any higher than that, unassisted. Sustainability should be viewed in the same way.
1. A daily commute of several miles by private automobile is not sustainable. All of the fuel required to keep those cars moving is not going to be replaced with sustainable fuels for the simple reason that we cannot produce enough fuel from sustainable sources to maintain indefinitely the present scale of our automobile use/dependency. You can forget about ethanol, hydrogen, solar, wind, etc. right now. They will only supply a tiny fraction of the energy that we currently consume. I am not saying we shouldn't use them; I believe they should be exploited to their full potential. However, it is quite obvious that we will not be able to maintain business as usual even with the wide scale implementation of these technologies.
2. A situation where everyone (or the vast majority) lives in their own house is not sustainable. To provide and maintain the supply lines, infrastructure such as roads and sewers, and basic services becomes increasingly expensive the more dispersed the population is. When the population is concentrated into a smaller space, the same facility can serve many more people. With a dispersed population mass transit becomes impossible to implement and residents are forced to drive, which is itself an unsustainable situation. With the population concentrated into a smaller area, many more people can be located within walking distance of goods and services as opposed to a dispersed population, and goods and services can be provided at a lower per capita cost.
3. Food that travels more than ~200 miles from it's point of origin is not sustainable. See #1. It should be noted that solar power is not capable of providing the necessary horsepower to power an 18-wheeler, or farm equipment for that matter. Food is not going to be shipped many thousands of miles in large cargo ships or by truck in a world where oil is much more expensive than it is now.
4. Non-renewable fuels are not sustainable. This should be obvious enough. If you use something that there is not an infinite amount of, eventually you will run out and no longer be able to use it.
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5. Ultimately, growth is not sustainable. The laws of thermodynamics explain this one. This requires that we change our economy from one in which growth is the goal, to one in which stability (sustainability) is the goal.
Practical solutions exist to the problems of global warming and peak oil that do not rely on new technology. Our cities can be redesigned to be more efficient and provide a better quality of life for all.
Thanks needs to go to Cambridge Laboratories who essentially gave me the concept for this posting in an twitter message they sent me. Looking at their website they look like a skillful joint health supplement shop in the event that anyone's curious.
Posted in Business Other Post Date 12/06/2014