1. Peak Oil. The modern world (that means you and I) literally cannot survive in its current form without crude oil, yet at the rate we're presently consuming it there'll be none left within a few decades. Global production may already have peaked which means that from here on the trend will be that oil becomes increasingly more scarce and more expensive.
2. Global Warming. Caused not just by our consumption of oil but also of natural gas and coal, and through activities such as deforestation and intensive livestock industries.
3. The Australian Drought. Water storages in my region are below 20% capacity. Some of the nation's major agricultural areas are bracing for the possibility of zero water allocations for irrigation this coming summer.
4. Energy Security. The three problems just described all have an impact on the future availability of electrical energy to power our society.
5. Ecological Concerns. Both for our own sake and as a matter of principle we need to halt or even reverse the global destruction of species and ecosystems.
1. Use less oil for personal transport:
- Drive less. Plan ahead so that I can get more stuff done in a single trip. Refocus my social and recreation activities to be closer to home. Work from home instead of going to the office. Take public transport whenever possible. Ride my bike whenever possible.
- Drive more efficiently. Accelerate gently, coast down hills, anticipate slowing down and get the foot off the accelerator sooner. Use the trip computer to monitor efficiency and learn to go further on less fuel.
- Drive a more efficient car. Use the four-cylinder car instead of the six-cylinder one where possible. Replace the six-cylinder one with something more fuel-frugal ASAP.
- Make air travel an exception rather than a lifestyle. At the destination use trains or buses instead of taxis if practical.
- Establish a productive food garden at home. I would like to be able to supply a significant portion of our diet from our own backyard: vegetables, some fruits, maybe some macadamia nuts and even eggs with the help of a couple of chooks.
- When buying food is necessary, choose locally-grown produce as much as possible to reduce fuel requirements for transport. Ideally look for produce grown using sustainable practices which require a minimum of oil- or gas-derived fertilisers and pesticides.
- Eat more whole or unprocessed foods.
- Avoid "fast food" as much as possible.
- Avoid food packaging, especially plastic containers, bags and wraps.
- When buying meals away from home, "dine in" instead of "take away" to reduce plastic wastes.
- Think twice before buying anything new. How much oil/energy/water was used to make this? Where was it made? Is it going to make a worthwhile contribution to my life? Where will it be in 2050? What will I do with the thing it's replacing? How much oil/energy/water does this use?
- Consider second-hand options for things I need to buy.
- Consider whether the thing I need could be borrowed or hired rather than purchased.
- Switch off as much as possible. Make the TV a special event instead of a lifestyle.
- Use the microwave and the electric frypan in preference to the stove or oven for cooking. Plan meals which require less cooking.
- Use the air conditioner as a last resort and even then only at a mild setting. (Insulation and external shade screens are already installed in the only air-conditioned room in the house.)
- Wear clothes longer in between washes.
- When major appliances require replacement make energy-efficiency a high priority.
- Sweep the tiled floor in preference to using the vacuum cleaner.
- Check the meters regularly to measure and manage usage.
- Pay the premium for renewable electricity generation.
- Buy in to greenhouse gas offset schemes for vehicle and air travel emissions.
- All the usual stuff... Australians are pretty aware these days of how to use water efficiently around the home.
- Go the extra mile: "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown then flush it down."
- Check the meter regularly to measure and manage usage.
- Convert to solar hot water heating ASAP.
- Investigate skylights for kitchen, dining room and study.
- Install rainwater tanks to irrigate gardens and reduce dependence on town water for clothes washing and toilet flushing.
- Consider pros and cons of solar panels for electricity production.
- Convert kitchen scraps to compost.
- Avoid disposable packaging. (This one is really tough in a "developed" society.)
- Try to provide the kids with toys that are durable, non-plastic and in some way recyclable.
- Be strict about recycling as much as possible. Follow council guidelines carefully to ensure that the material isn't contaminated and consequently wasted.
- Spend some time considering McDonough's "waste equals food" principle. (His book is on its way to me in the post as I write this.) Look for opportunities to embrace it.
- Well there's this blog, for starters. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and gives me a kind of reference point to compare whatever state I find myself in with where I've been in the past. But hopefully it'll also be valuable for others - just as blogs like the ones I've linked to have been so helpful to me.
- Seek out people who are further along the sustainability track (generally speaking) than I am. Support them and learn from them.
- Speak out - but avoid being arrogant or obnoxious. Look for opportunities at a personal and political level to involve people in the discussion of how we're going to survive (dare we hope to prosper?) in the post-oil greenhouse-affected forseeable future.