Running On Empty


"It's possible to leave a helpful footprint." 

                 Ben Falk in INHABIT

I have just taken the World Wildlife Fund Footprint Challenge. If every human being lived my lifestyle, the calculator estimates 2.29 planets would be required to sustain us. In other words, according to this calculation, 2.29 worlds comprised of individual organisms would be required to sustain equality of my current lifestyle and material wealth.

The WWF calculator considers the most recent year’s behavior for its footprint calculation. A few notes about my lifestyle included in this assessment: I do not own an automobile; my bicycle is my primary source of transportation. I am an omnivore and consume animal flesh approximately once a week. I purchase meat and produce sourced from organic and local growers. I compost and/or recycle what I do not consume. I live with one housemate in a single family (‘detached’) gas heated home. In the past year, I clocked one domestic flight; spent less than $100 on body care products; and purchased no major appliances, communication technology, or power tools.

So, compared to many in the United States, I’ve lived light for the past year. If I remove a single flight, which took me to my Grandmother’s funeral service, 1.76 worlds are required for a planet full of human beings living my lifestyle. I like to think that I live simply, walking lightly in the steps of my Grandmother and my ancestors who were good Quakers known for frugality and the careful materialism that Michael Stone describes..

But, even the basic standards of comfort to which I am privileged are luxuries the global community cannot afford or they are luxuries that have been accomplished by unaffordable means.

In either case, Earth runs on empty at the moment and is desperate for rest. Like a mother depleted from nursing her infant while maintaining a home and working a full-time job outside the home, the ecological community suffers a physical and emotional breakdown.

Still, experiencing my own unique response to the stresses of a work hard or starve culture, I continue to push my own limits as well as other's limits. Instilled in me is the deep-rooted drive to prove myself coupled with a sense of entitlement for hard work done. I think, if I work hard I will be provided for. But working hard equates not only to the breakdown of my body and mind. Working hard wears on every relationship I'm involved in, including the land and water, and every tool I use. The protestant work ethic starves everyone in the end.

Permaculture is a homescape design and life philosophy that requires much less work on our part while encouraging the roles of other animals, plants, and insects in the mix. Permaculture principles may be applied in business practice, home, and garden. It's possible to grow a permanent culture even out of this one that is so close to a dead end. 

see WWF Footprint Calculator                                           

see INHABIT: a permaculture perspective