Thursday, March 05, 2009

Riot For Austerity

I've been hitting the gardening blogs pretty hard the past few days. The weather is teasing us and making me crazier than usual. Yesterday it was 10 degrees down here at lakeside, sunny and not even too windy. The tease ended today with a high of four and a numbing north wind that tried to swat you off your feet. Just ahead, a high of minus seven and a low of -13. I'm waiting to put in my seeds till after that blows out of town.

The Red Chief stayed out for about five minutes this morning before pulling me back inside. He just asked to go out again, but when he leaned out the open door and felt the cold wind, he turned around and said, "Thanks, but it much nicer in here."

Anyway back to my surfing gardening blogs. I've added three new links to my blogroll and it is here that I have been spending most of my time. No surprise that they are focused not only on food sustainability but on reducing the impact we make on the planet. One has a sub-page called Riot For Austerity.

Austerity is a fearsome word to many people. (Booga-booga!) But unless we want to send the climate into a spiral which is unrecoverable it's a word we ought to become a little more familiar with. Austerity doesn't hurt so bad.

"Riot For Austerity" is based on a quote from George Monbiot's book; Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Monbiot suggests that in order to stop catastrophic global warming, worldwide emissions must be reduced by 60%.  That number jumps to a 90% reduction in the U.S.  (and Canada), since we are such energy hogs.

Monbiot writes that not only do we lack the political will for such a drastic change, but also “no one ever rioted for austerity.”  In other words, the 90% number is easy to brush off as ‘un-doable, and therefore not worth discussing further.’ 

Well, some see it differently.  The group that started the Riot for Austerity blog believes that if a group voluntarily drops their emissions and consumption by 90% over a year, they can show that it is possible. 

They have a calculator, where you can figure your annual emissions and consumption, and compare that level to the US average. Canadian averages are even higher, since we live in a colder climate and import more food and manufactured goods than the US. On this front we did well, we are not rabid consumers.

We have driven less than 1000 km (620 miles) in the past year, and thus used 3% of the average amount of fuel for transport. Our electricity usage was 19% of average. Heating and cooking fuel use was 10% of average. Water about 15% of average. The fact that the toilet uses only a half-cup of water per flush, the washer uses only nine gallons per load, and we shower Japanese-style helps a lot.

Aiiii, where we fall off the curve is in garbage production, though I'm not sure exactly how this was supposed to be calculated. I included everything although I think you were meant to subtract the stuff you compost and recycle. With everything included I figure we produce 44% of the average.

Consumer goods - 26% - This may be high, as I wasn't certain exactly what was included. We buy as few disposable items as possible, and we make do as much as we can. Still we haven't denied ourselves anything we really wanted or needed. We don't have room for much and we don't tend to want a lot that isn't necessary. Much of our spending has been to improve energy efficiency in the trailer.

Food - this category was a bit confusing for me - we do need to eat more locally grown food. We use about the target amount for dry bulk foods, But too much in the "wet goods and conventional" - these are imported fruits and veggies, which we do rely on in the winter. Our big luxury is canned milk for our coffee. We use it straight up, a half can a day (between the two of us). This is probably decadent but the calcium is good for us and we both have a problem tolerating regular milk. The "creamers" are full of chemicals and manufactured fats, while canned milk is just milk.

So, while it is just an estimate, the calculator shows me where I need to pay more attention. I am going to grow as many veggies as possible this summer, and put away more, so we are less reliant on imported foods next winter. And, although I really don't like shopping in the thrift store here, mainly because it is open short hours and is very crowded, I am going to make an effort to begin buying second hand whenever possible.

If it's a riot it's is definitely a quiet one. And we are well on our way to using that 90% less than the average US/Canadian consumer.


Anonymous said...

Okay Auntie...I'll bite...what's a Japanese style shower?

We're 100% on the gas (that's from driving 32 miles round trip a day to work) but we were only 3% on the heating fuel (propane) we also use our fireplace for heat. We are below average on everything else except the food. While we do garden and put lots in the freezer, we still purchase lots of fruits, vegetables and meats. interesting calculator site.

Deb said...

Hi Girlie,
This Japanese shower thing comes from: 1) small tub which is hard for those with muscle weakness to get out of 2) six gallon water heater. We keep a plastic kitchen stool in the tub. We heat a kettle full of water, which we pour into a bucket which sits under the tap. We add water from the tap to adjust the temp. Now you scrub, using hot water from the bucket, soap and a sponge. Once u is all scrubbed you use a dipper to rinse yourself squeaky. So a nice bath with a gallon of water. The Japanese would climb into a hot tub and soak after doing this but we lack the hot tub (alas), so we just have to dry off and get dressed.