doing more


denmark is the birthplace of the modern wind industry. on an average day 20% of the electricity needs of the country are satisfied by wind power. on a windy night, it's 150%. both numbers are far more than any other country. and we can sleep well, knowing our energy is some of the greenest in the world.

but (you knew there was a but), in my view, it makes us a bit complacent. being able to be this green, without any effort on our part, allows us to rest on our laurels. and i don't see a whole lot of other green thinking going on in denmark. this is partially due to a government with a lack of vision - for example, if you are a private person and you want to put up a 1-6KW wind turbine on your own property, to satisfy your own electricity needs, you have to jump through the exact same hoops and satisfy exactly the same requirements as if you were the power company putting up a bunch of 3.6MW wind turbines for a wind farm. and you actually have to PAY to hook your turbine up to the grid - you have to pay in order to sell the electricity you generate. we calculated the payoff of such a turbine to 15 years! it's just a bad business case. in other words, the laws and regulations actually prevent people from being green on their own property.

so we find ourselves looking for other ways we can be green. we live out in the country in a rather sparsely-populated area, so a car is a must for us, but we have decided we can get along with one car for our household. it's a trade off, because living in the country also means we have plenty of space to have a large garden and room for a chicken coop and even space for a couple of pigs. so come spring, we're going to have those things. i'm looking forward to the day when the garden is producing enough that i can cancel my weekly organic box delivery. i'm also looking forward to gathering the first eggs from my own hens and to feeding our scraps to the pigs, rather than sending them for green recycling at the dump.

elizabeth, jude and i have been talking about these issues and exchanging links to articles of interest for some time now and we decided it was time to take the dialogue a bit more public, hence this blog, where we're going to be thinking out loud about issues of living a more sustainable life - so the planet our children inherit will be one they can actually use.

we hope you'll join in our conversation.


rayfamily said...

Awesome! Are you doing pigs too this spring?? I think we're going to wait one more year on them, but are looking into the possiblity of a goat (cheese, soaps etc, also surplus milk good for pigs). I look forward to reading and offering my two cents ;)

will said...

If I may add a touch of the philosophical ... First, you must understand, I am not in disagreement with what you are doing but I want to reference several other things. In the late 1700s and through the 1800s and perhaps culminating in the 1960s, there have been many people making many diverse efforts to "be with the land", attempting utopias and all wanting sustainable communities. The Midwest was a hotspot of many utopian efforts. Later, Henry Ford and Walt Disney attempted self-sustainable planned communities. Of course, there are were those hippy communes of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The finest example were the Shakers, founded by Ann Lee. Some say their demise was because of celibacy but I’m fairly certain they faded away because they became too successful, as well as, their geographical locations were prime real estate once their areas became population centers. Their clever farming techniques, packaged seeds and excellent craft skills all became too rewarding and their membership became valuable to the society at large.

So, here we are today. Generally the literature on sustainably and being green revolves around individual efforts and, to some degree, localized communities.

Here’s were the big “but” comes in. But the problems of sustainability and good ecology face a torrent of bad political and bad business practices which seems insurmountable. Ocean dumping (garbage and sewage), reliance on petro-chemicals and then the discarding of their waste, extraordinarily bad fishing practices (including the near extinction of big fish), top-down mining operations, deforestation in the tropics ... just to name a few. And, we should not forget the elephant in the pantry: Over-population.

Experts have made studies of climate change and the near future ... if the earth’s temperature rises 2° we may be facing global catastrophe, including collapsing governments and wars over water and agricultural lands.

Against that backdrop we see the growth of the green movement. In my eyes it necessitates several key ingredients:
Good science and engineering.
Diverse skill-sets.
Manual labor.
Political savvy.
Access to the media.

Yes, every journey begins with a single step ... but the world is a complex place and new strategies are needed. Local success must somehow feed upstream into the geo-politics of community, state and national governments.

julochka said...

amy - we are going to get pigs 2 or 3. i am also keen on goats, but husband doesn't like goat cheese and he points out that i'm not that good at tasks that have to be done routinely - like milking the goat, so that's still up in the air.

will - this is exactly the kind of conversation i was looking for here. there are a ton of barriers in the way to doing this and of course, the desire to do it isn't new - one of the main resources we're turning to is john seymour's "self sufficiency" tome from the 70s. i think if you look around the society at large, you can feel pretty helpless about whether it's possible to do anything, but i'm not willing to just sit inner idealist says that if you want to make a difference, you have to start with yourself. (at least until apple releases their next fabulous product.)

Karen said...

I love what you're doing and will follow your progress. We have a 43 acre farm and we hay the fields, but so far I have not been willing to kill animals for food here - it's not that I don't eat bacon and steak - it's that if I meet them and feed them daily and come to love them, they aren't going anywhere. We are planning a chicken coop this spring though - eggs are do-able :-) Good luck with your goals!

L.R. M-J said...

I RT'd your comment last week on Twitter re: your house not being you, and am here b/c it was such a rare occurrence that someone says, practically verbatim, what I have thought and said & tried to articulate to others...that well, I'm checking you out! ;) We moved from Paris to our country renovation project 2yrs ago...not originally because of lofty self-sustainable goals, but merely b/c we were spending so much time out of the city in our free time, outside, away from the pollution and nasty people that we thought, hey, why not live in the country and GO to Paris...and so that's what we did. What happened is that now, with our 6 acres of land, our corner lake, a large creek that's classed by the French government running through our property, with our friendship growing with our young dairy farmer neighbours and retired neighbours with sheep, chickens, get the picture, WE are becoming educated and self-sustainability is now not just a thought, but bit by bit a natural byproduct of our living situation! I'm Norwegian by family, Norwegian-American by birth & marriage and now Franco by life location...I can tell you that France's eco actions are FAR behind Scandinavia and so it is actually worse then just the mere bad Danish governmental requirements here!
Looking forward to peeking in on your discussions :) Laila (aka-Parisbug)

L.R. M-J said...

P.S. Feel no shame...I too am an Apple-oholic...I count the iPhone, iPad & iMac to my name and Le Mr's shame. :)

Sandra said...

I will enjoy this. I know sustainability/simple living has become a movement again in the last few years. I have no idea if it will become more than a passing fad, but I would like to think so.

I came to living without consuming a lot by accident of life style. I don't care for the term, but in my case it is useful. Years spent in the barn have caused me to need little, as I lost interest in the trappings of my former life. The very bad American economy has pushed me further in a frugal direction, as in keeping my home cooler in the winter and learning I can live without air conditioning in the summer.

I cannot raise animals for slaughter. I know it is hypocritical of me, as I eat meat, but I also cannot kill what I raise. I would like to keep chickens for the eggs, but my greyhound kills birds.

So I do the best I can. I know I am not able to change the American way of life, but I can live a better life myself.

julochka said...

just a note to encourage everyone to go check out the post lizzi wrote today about sustainability:

it's worth thinking about how we can live a more sustainable life when it's not possible to move to the country and have 17 acres at your disposal!

and sandra - i'm a little apprehensive about the animals for slaughter thing too, but i think my desire to know where my food is coming from just might win over my squeamishness. but time will tell on that one!

julochka said...

oh, and i'm NOT going to do the slaughtering myself....that will be left to the professionals!

rayfamily said...

We are not interested in the slaughtering ourselves at this point yet either. Though philosophically I am closer to that than I ever thought I would. Right now our 9 year old daughter is the one who is wholly against, though she understands it better now. If we do at some point, we won't do it here. We have a friend who is a butcher and can hook us up with someone who will take them from us and he can process them.

We emphasize the respectful and happy life we give our hens to our daughter to highlight how if we eat meat it's important that the animals life was respected. Self-efficiency and sustainability is a process that as my husband says it's a marathon, not a sprint. It's a learning process for all of us. Julie, I agree. My thinking is that it starts with a few and continues on (though it's not a new concept). I know my kid's friends and their families are very interested in what we're doing. It's all a start. :)

Sandra, we've had an epic three years with growing a flock of egg layers, including a feisty farm poodle who has a taste for chicken. We've found ways to make it all happen. Let me know if you're interested in ideas :) We now get a dozen + eggs a day and have more people who want them than we can accommodate.

Sandra said...

I would be interested. But I'm not sure the greyhound is curable! She catches pigeons in mid-flight and has them half eaten before I can get her name out of my mouth!

kristina - no penny for them said...

you are so very lucky to have enough land for a garden. i'm dreaming of one and own books on gardening, have tons of ideas in my mind. for the time being, i love reading (and getting inspiration) from nigel slater's kitchen diaries and tender (vols. 1 & 2), as these books so beautifully focus on cooking with the season - with ingredients that can actually be grown in one's own garden.

i'm so looking forward to seeing what adventures will unfold in your new home in 2011 (counting on you to take photos of house and garden ;))!

p.s.: as to will's point - i think changing people's view on things, e.g. by setting a personal example and showing it's enjoyable as well as sensible - will eventually change public opinion and thus put a lot of pressure on the powers that be to change the big picture. hoping this is happening sooner rather than later.

will said...

It goes without saying, starting with one's self is imperative. None the less, there's enough examples over the past 50 years to show, most often, the person who's doing the right thing doesn't majorly change society.

What you do and how you do it must become visible to large numbers of people if societal change is to me accomplished.

Today, TV is the fastest method of story telling. So why not video record what you are attempting and have your stories seen on TV.

Or, write books - anything to spread your message. But don't trust the one person at a time approach if you want to make a difference.

Unknown said...

Working on similar ideology for sustainable living with the your thoughts,words and action i humbly say you are inspiring.
nice work.