How can I decarbonise my life?

The question

What can we, as a family, do to reduce our carbon footprint and have a more ecologically sound lifestyle in general?

I know there are a lot of resources out there but I don’t have any particular expertise or the time to research everything, so I need a step-by-step or a handbook.

A related question – a lot of the difficulty is inertia. Any advice on how to get momentum turning away from the consumerist vortex of middle class American life (give me convenience or give me death) towards a more sustainable lifestyle?

This excellent question was posted to an online forum recently. It received some very good answers so I thought that I would treat it like a similar question on ethical investing a year ago and turn the discussion into a blog post.

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Put Solar On It! (2)

Solar power has been going gangbusters since my previous post under this title (2014) and an update of it is well overdue. This isn’t it, however. What I want to do here is talk about domestic solar power, and specifically its advantages here in North Queensland, via four small projects which came out of our own move from one suburban Townsville house to another two years ago.

I will go from smallest to largest.

Hall Lighting

The new house is a low-set, 1950-ish cement block home pleasantly surrounded by trees. That makes it much darker than our old high-set home, and its double-fronted layout means that the central hallway gets no direct natural light at all.

We had to choose between running lights all day, every day, and putting in a small skylight. Initial quotes for a skylight (Solatube, basic model) were around $750 with, of course zero running costs for about 10 hrs/day of adequate light, 365 days/yr. Could we do better?

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Moving towards a plant-based diet

In Eating for the Planet (two years ago) I argued that the ideal diet is “one which minimises harm to the environment and to animals while maximising benefits to our health. There is no logically necessary connection between the three objectives but there is a ‘sweet spot’ where all three happen to coincide: a plant-based diet emphasising fresh, local, seasonal food.”

carbon footprint of meats and other protein
Environmental footprints of various proteins, from the Environmental Working Group, UK.

Since then, calls for all of us to adopt a plant-based diet for the sake of the environment have become ever more frequent and more urgent. Not entirely coincidentally, I have been moving towards such a diet myself, and thinking about how to do so as easily as possible. After all, if a change seems worthwhile and isn’t too hard, then more of us will try it.

Changing the lifetime habits of a household all at once may be impossible but what if we can gently move in the right direction – one dish at a time, one meal at a time, and maybe have some fun doing so? Continue reading “Moving towards a plant-based diet”

Negotiating Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone wishing to live ethically without offending family and friends by appearing to reject their goodwill. The frenzy of gift-giving is a big issue. On the one hand, Christmas has been commercialised beyond belief, becoming yet another pretext for blatantly wasteful over-consumption; on the other, giving is always a good thing (and receiving can be nice, too). The religious aspect may also be problematic, since the endless barrage of sentimentalised carols and nativity scenes is irrelevant at best, and may be oppressive, for atheists or members of non-Christian faith communities. And then there’s the obligatory socialising with co-workers, members of your sporting club, or those members of your extended family whom you do your best to avoid during the year. It has its good side but enough is enough, surely?

We can’t do much, individually, about the superfluity of Christianity or conviviality but we can certainly do something about the material waste. Continue reading “Negotiating Christmas”

Ursula Le Guin: Always Coming Home

always-coming-home-2016Ursula Le Guin

Always Coming Home

1985, republished by SF Masterworks in 2016

Always Coming Home is a wonderful book but it challenges easy categorisation. Like most of Le Guin’s work, it belongs somewhere in the ‘science fiction and fantasy’ area, but there’s very little science in it and even less fantasy. It is not even a novel, nor a collection of short stories, but an anthology including short stories, poems, play-scripts, an excerpt from a novel, myths and (the longest item) an autobiography.

Between them, they give us a richly textured introduction to an exotic culture – much as an anthology of Kazakh folk tales and literature might do. But which culture?

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