The concept of Sustainability is more than just installing Solar Panels…
Solar energy is an incredible technology which is just one source of renewable energy amongst others. Renewable energy as a whole is an exciting venture. We’ve written about this before – here.
Renewable energy however, is really just one part of a much bigger issue known as Sustainable living or Sustainability. One reason solar energy is exciting is because it contributes to relearning how to live in harmony with our planet. Living Sustainably is taking that energy and applying it holistically to your lifestyle.
Why do we need to be sustainable?
Sustainability is important, and becoming increasingly so, simply because we live on a finite earth with finite resources. Keep expanding infinitely and don’t have infinite resources? Something is going to have to give way at some stage. Of course, it’s more complicated than that – it’s becoming such a significant concept you can now even get a degree in Sustainability.
A good definition of sustainability is:
The study of how natural systems function, remain diverse and produce everything it needs for the ecology to remain in balance. It also acknowledges that human civilisation takes resources to sustain our modern way of life.environmentalscience.org/sustainability(opens in a new tab)
Every living thing requires resources to remain alive: sharks need fish, trees need soil, humans need comfort, shelter and food. Sustainability isn’t about how to not impact the environment at all – if that were the case we wouldn’t be here. Rather, how we can get what we need to live and thrive without damaging or destroying our environment. Namely, the only home we have.
How do we become more sustainable?
Solar panels and using solar energy is just one example of this more relational and sensitive living. There are countless other ways of how we can live in better harmony with our natural environment. It’s easy to research countless lists on how to live more sustainably, like here!
Sustainable living is a relatively new concept in human history. For most of our history we’ve been consumers. Contrary to the romantic notion we have of our hunter-gatherer history, these ‘societies’ would regularly move from one place to another because they had used up all the resources. Soon enough, we became able to live in more permanent settlements due to new technologies and skills. However the demand on the environment became greater. It’s only been since WW2, that the understanding of our need for sustainable living has become clear.
The majority of climate scientists are now warning of the dangers of unsustainable living. It has become a more important issue than just a simple preference of lifestyle.
It’s about changing lifestyles..
Although how one lives is a huge part of sustainability – even though it may not be as in your face as the warnings of climate change – one of the toughest aspects of living sustainably is when it conflicts with people’s lifestyle desires. Getting solar panels is easier to understand, perhaps because it comes with a real economic benefit. However some changes are harder to adopt, such as a Permaculture Philosophy of Living, because requires new education, and a lot of time. So for someone who enjoys spending their weekends relaxing doing nothing, or who always eats out, sustainable living might not seem only too hard, but also undesirable. A part of sustainability is also the gradual shift of one lifestyle to another, or simply becoming open to different ways of living.
Our ‘Consumerist Society’ often seems at odds with sustainable living, and capitalism gets a bad rap as if it’s the source of the problem. But perhaps we have been consumers for a long time and it’s only very recently that our growing population is starting to outweigh the resources we have to support our lavish lifestyles.
Solar energy is at the forefront of new ways of living to support our lifestyles, while also being in harmony with the natural world. The more innovative ways like this that we can adopt the more we will be able to continue to thrive and enjoy this precious planet.