Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sustainable Goals

I am a little saddened to know that it’s gone.

When I was about 18, I moved several small maple sprouts that had taken root on the edge of the yard close to the huge old parent maple tree. They were a few inches tall and I planted them in a bed in a protected area. A few years later I took the largest and healthiest and planted it in front of the house between the sidewalk and the street. It grew above the utility lines and was trimmed to protect the utilities. Whenever I visited my parents, it gave me a sense of pleasure, peace and satisfaction to see the tree and to know I had a part in its history. I had protected it from lawn mowers, droughts and other urban dangers. Hopefully, it would be there after I was gone.

My father passed away, my mother moved to a nursing home, the house was sold and the tree was cut. Such is life but the tree still inspires me. It helped teach me to plan for the distant future, to be patient, to be persistent, to measure progress not by distance from the goal but by distance from the start.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed working toward long range goals – finish an enlistment in the Army, complete college, earn a graduate degree, pay off educational debts, give my children a home and opportunities. Life is richest when I have goals. Perhaps this is part of what defines us as human – the need and ability to plan for the future, to work and to get a sense of pleasure as we move toward the goal.

We’ve lived off the grid for the last nineteen months and we’ve been in our house for ten months. The electrical system has been close to perfect. Water has not been a problem nor troublesome to haul. In nineteen months we’ve made only four trips to the land fill and composting is going well. We’re established. We’ve not where we want to go but we’ve come a long way from the start.

Julie and I are making plans for the coming spring and summer and it helps to review our progress to date and to renew our determination and commitment to sustainable living. We can’t change our world as quickly as we would like but that’s OK. It took years for the maple tree to mature and it may take a few more years but we’ll get there.

This year, in addition to regular maintenance, we’re planning on installing a system for harvesting rain water, garden beds, irrigation for some landscaping, and a porch on the front of the house. I won’t get to a grey water system this year but this is a low priority since we don’t use much water and therefore don’t produce much grey water. We heat and cook with propane and I want to reduce or eliminate this necessity but that’s a little more challenging and I haven’t found the right solutions as yet.

Sustainability is important to Julie and me. I’ve been reading about climate change, global warming, species extinctions, alternative energy and environment impact of human decisions. There are some who believe we’ve passed the point of no return and global warming will destroy us. Perhaps they are correct but until that happens I plan on continuing to work for sustainable living that preserves the earth and its natural beauty for the next generation.

The maple tree didn’t outlive me but my solar panels will. It’s predicted that they will still be functioning fifty years from now. I have no assurance they will last that long but such is life. The only thing I have control over is my self and I plan on leaving my children an example of setting goals, working toward them and leaving the earth as healthy as I can. I think that’s a worthy heritage for them.

If I’m fortunate and know my time is growing short, just before I die, I think I’ll plant another tree and leave it for others to enjoy. That would make an interesting obituary: "He is survived by two children, five grandsons and one maple tree."

5 Comments:

Blogger Rob said...

I agree about goals. Also I appreciate your responsible attitude towards the environment.

1/19/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Smarts said...

This is an inspiring post. I can only imagine the satisfaction you must gain from such independent living.

1/19/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger The Michael said...

There seem to be people programmed with a set of instructions at birth, with a processor that runs flawlessly from day one, and none of it was written by Microsoft. I realize that your seemingly blessed life was the result of a good start, hard work, and even better values, but it still amazes me how easy you make it seem. I would trade my life for yours in a second, but I would almost be willing to bet I would not be a bit happier. Thanks for trying, at least, now if we could only get the other 3 billion people on this planet to wake up and quit killing off the roses.

1/19/2006 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gaye said...

What an inspirational "ending" to one's life-- children, grandchildren, and nature...

1/19/2006 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous julie said...

I love how the Internet makes the world so much smaller! Would love to learn more about your off-grid living. I've similar aspirations but am really not committed to being fully off-grid at any point in the forseeable future. Will hope that farther back in your blog there are more details. It's wonderful to find people doing the things I dream of.

1/20/2006 03:02:00 PM  

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