Around the turn of the century, when I ventured into developing a small sustainable development, I made a list of the considerations that should be included in defining “sustainability.” They were the “usual” … heating, cooling, electrical power, water, air quality, waste management, etc.
And how would I measure to see if I was being sustainable?
Net Zero … which essentially can be defined as 100% of that aspect plus storage. Nature provides heat or light or rain when it pleases. It might rain at 3:00 a.m., when I’m asleep and don’t need the water. So I store it – such as with a cistern – and use it when I wish to do so.
Over time, my list of sustainable elements expanded.
First, I began to realize that the #1 aspect of sustainability was actually food. If you Google “sustainability,” or “Net Zero Sustainability,” most of the data you’ll see relates to energy. Yet, the Middle East has been in greater turmoil since Russia lost 60% of their grain crop in 2010 and their exports – bought by Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc. – went to zero. Migrants cross the Mediterranean in flimsy craft because … they’re starving!
Then, when our first spec sustainable home was completed, I was delighted to get three offers for it after our first open house. I asked each party …
“I’m delighted that you’re making this offer.
But from a learning standpoint I’d like to
find out why you did so. There are a lot
of houses in the market; why this one?”
The response was crushing!
The number one reason was “aesthetics”! Working with several talented specialists, we were able to craft a home that was Net Zero in heating, cooling, power, and water. And our indoor air quality was better than outdoor air. And they all wanted the house “because it was pretty”?
During that time, some of my reading included books dealing with “survival” … how to live off the land, how to live in safety, etc. as there was a lot of fear going around, and feelings that things could collapse, so those books became best sellers … which is a reflection of the public’s disposition.
Then I had to ask myself if “sustainability” was more than “survival.”
I believe it is.
And that opened more explorations into “quality of life” considerations … education, culture, fitness, career, sense of community, feelings of potency, and even into “life mission.” Are we in this lifetime to just make a living? To amass a fortune? To do good deeds? To raise a great family? To invent things? To improve life for humanity? To create fine works of art or music?
The answer, naturally, is different for each of us.
Then I found Dr. Arkoff’s book, “The Illuminated Life.” Where our high school or college counselors mostly helped with career advice, Dr. Arkoff defined a 9-step process for helping people get a better sense of what made their life as fulfilling as it could possibly be. Then I thought …
“Shouldn’t a sustainable community provide
this kind of guidance for residents in the
community who might find it helpful?”
I spent the better part of a week working with a professor who was now teaching Dr. Arkoff’s process, and evolved a 9-lesson short-course – with facilitator’s guide – that could be offered to residents in our small community.
The outcomes were fantastic!
Most participants worked in a profession. And it turned out that most were not truly happy or fulfilled with what they were doing. Some even dreaded going to work each day – even though they made a good living. For example …
- One was a nurse in the intensive care unit of a major nearby hospital. The “politics” in the hospital made working there unbearable. After the course, she soon left that job and began working in a hospice. Even that was only a half-step, as her real passion was graphic design, which – a few months later – she was now doing … and enjoying each day!
- One was, with his brother, an owner of a car dealership. His passion was playing bass guitar, which he did with many well-known bands in Nashville. To quote one comment: “When I’m playing music, it’s like my soul is talking to me.” Then his father left his brother and him the car dealership – which provided a good living without the travel his musical career required, so he could raise a family. Now he had income and family but was unhappy and feeling unfulfilled. Since the class, he now spends a healthy part of each week playing music again … and feeling more “alive” as a result!
How often do any of us call “time out” and sit back and ask ourselves what would be the most fulfilling thing we could do in our lifetime?
My wife happens to be clairaudient, and we’ve had the privilege of ongoing communication with a non-physical entity we address simply as “D” for over eight years. While I do have a sense of what I’d like to accomplish by the end of this lifetime, almost every day, D asks me …
“What are you going to do today that will give you joy?”
“What can you do to find something
joyful in each hour?”
For me, it’s so much easier to talk about things I need to do – even though they’re mundane, and neither fun nor meaningful – than to push myself to gain clarity about what I can do in the next hour that’s joyful. Yet, I believe that – on the physical side of things – living with what the Earth provides is both essential and readily done. And – on the non-physical side of things – defining what is most joyful and living it each hour and each day is truly the path to “sustainable living.”