June 17, 2009 – Continuing with the train of thought I began yesterday, it seems to me that attacking this problem from two sides might yield good results. Since the problem is two-fold – too many people requiring too much stuff – the answer needs to be, too: fewer people who live more simply.
The first element of the problem will be rectified, one way or another. Either people can choose to slow their rate of procreation, or global warming will reach such an advanced stage that deranged ecosystems will unleash death and disease. Sound melodramatic? It will be!! What did you think of the entertainment value of Hurricane Katrina? How about watching people die of malaria, dengue fever, or the flu? You will, once the United States becomes warm enough. And remember, it’s not daytime temperatures we’re talking about. Temperatures have warmed the most at night. Bugs like that! Mosquitoes and ticks are on their way in increasing numbers, coming to a neighborhood near you!!
Ok, enough sarcasm. How do we decrease family size enough to make a difference? One method has proved failsafe, all over the world: when you educate women, family size decreases automatically. Women with a wider view of the world want to become more involved with activities outside the home. Some want to work, some want to pursue a life of social activism. In countries where family size remains larger than the sustainable limit, birth control must be made widely available. In some parts of the world, men’s attitudes must change. Educated women will help to teach them the value of small families. Cultural opposition to small families, coupled with the fact that, for world population to decrease, couples will be limited to only one child (not necessarily forever, but for awhile), makes human intervention unlikely to make enough of a difference. It would be irresponsibility on a new order of magnitude for us not to try, however.
We can therefore rest assured that, at some point in the future, human population will have sufficiently decreased. There may well be, in fact, too great a decrease. This will depend upon humankind’s ability to cope with the problems inherent in a globally warmed world. We will be called upon, as never before, to live brave and unselfish lives. Another phase of acclimating ourselves will be easier: we will live more simply.
What will that look like? Let’s see: houses will be smaller, and they will be warmed and cooled by renewable sources of energy. People will mow their smaller yards with lawn mowers whose source of power is the person using them. Clothes will be hung outside to dry; not a big deal, because we will own fewer articles of clothing.
We will live closer to the places we work, and many people will live in multi-residence buildings in the city, where they can walk or bike to work. Those living farther outside the city will grow some of their own food, without the use of chemicals. Farmers will grow food that way, too!
How will this come about? It will take time, of course, which is why it’s important to get started right now. What are the first steps you can take? You don’t want to sell your 2200 square foot ranch on a half-acre of land right now, and that’s under-standable. Can you turn your thermostat up two degrees in summer, and down two degrees in winter? Could you allow your grass to grow another inch or two before you cut it, thereby cutting down on the terrible pollution caused by the inefficient gas engines on lawn mowers? Ask your Homeowners’ Association if it would allow residents to hang clothes out to dry. Starting a vegetable garden requires a shovel and some seeds.
Do you clean the inside of your house with chemicals? Think about switching to vinegar and baking soda. That’s what I’ve used for 25 years. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full. The same goes for the washing machine and dryer. Re-use, re-use, re-use. Recycle when you must. Garden organically. Bury banana skins near your roses, egg shells and other organic waste in between other plants. There are also excellent organic fertilizers available. Bugs eating your roses? Spray them with a home-made insecticide made of 1 T. of tobasco, a few drops of dishwashing liquid, and 1 quart of water. Keeps the deer away, too! (Re-use after it rains.)
Overwhelmed? No need to be – pick one energy-saving strategy and start doing it today. Not tomorrow, today. Do it and do it until it becomes habitual, a new routine. Tell your family about your decision, and tell them why you think it’s important to start saving energy. When your children ask, “What else can we do?” tell them the options and let them choose. Give each of them a tomato plant to grow organically, and tell them why gardening and farming organically is so important.
Will this make a difference? Yes, it will. Enough of a difference? Possibly. If businesses start greening up their act along with individual citizens, the skies could begin to look a bit clearer at night, and the air might be a bit more breathable during the day. We may not immediately see the results of our efforts, but that does not excuse us from making the efforts. Sometimes the most beneficial results are based upon acts of faith. If you have seen this in your own life, you know what I’m talking about. If you have not, you don’t. Do the right thing, anyway. Because you can’t see around the corner doesn’t mean wonderful things don’t lie just beyond.