Recycling, Renewability, Sustainability and Consumerism
An attachment to Caradon Council's 'Sustainability' Questionnaire

Roger Lovejoy:- 8th November, 2002

Point 1 | Point 2 | Point 3 | Point 4 | Point 5 | Point 6 |Point 7 | Point 8 | Indicators
Examples: Diggers (Gerrad Winstanley) | Tinkers Bubble (Simon Fairlie) | Hockerton Housing Project
Lastwords: Ideology | Sustainability

Some simple facts extrapolated from Collin's Children's World Atlas 1985

As a consequence of buying land to develop sustainable smallholdings, in 1992, I had reason to find some accurate figures as to how much land would be available to each person should they wish to have an autonomous economy based on the produce of a fair share of the land in the UK.

Although you may find the figures dated, and you may wish to check the maths, nevertheless the points I shall be making are very clear.

The results of my initial rough calculations are as follows:

The developing query is how can a person live from 1 acre of land?

Before the details of any specific 'sustainable small holding' etc. is to be ascribed, there are a few major problems to consider; The understanding and acceptance of which are requirements for anyone wishing to venture into the rigours of an alternative to the careless consumerism, becoming evident to the masses in the West, in the later part of the 20th century.

  1. The only renewable source of energy is bio-mass. Plants are the only efficient absorbers of sunlight and they are renewable if the soil, water and air are not polluted and there is adequate warmth and light and no detrimental impact from mankind.
  2. To remove sunlight via solar panels is to deprive the plants of one of it's requirements and thereby reducing the quantity of available sun energy. True, deserts may be used, and the Sahara alone has enough area to supply all the international needs in electricity, but in the UK we talk of wind power as our resource.

    The problem in using any so called alternative energy is that they all rely on a fixed quantity of sunlight (photon energy) which may calculate as 1 Kilowatt per square metre.
    The winds and tides are the consequence of the soil and water and air, absorbing photons. They are not in addition to the fixed amount of photonic energy arriving from the sun.

    Absorbing this energy via photovoltaic cells, wind and water turbines and pumps will clearly affect the local habitat in ways of localised geophysical, climatic and other environmental changes. Although these may appear to be small, they are unlikely to be insignificant. Inevitable changes to tidal flows, river courses, wind effected cooling and heat transfer, air-born pollination, and other wind-born products for instance the dispersion of pollution will have disturbing impacts upon local eco-spheres with the consequent trickle-down affect to surrounding systems.

    In other words we cannot claim that wind and water based power sources are renewable for in their use
    1. we undermine the existing environment by removing a 'natural' supporting quantity.
    2. there is a limit, were the absorption of photons other than via plants causes slow but long term damage to the plant kingdom and the dependent animals..
  3. The 'renewable' energy question develops.
    Can we develop a viable use of plants, to produce all our energy requirements? In theory yes, but in practice it is unlikely we will do so. However until we find acceptable ways of reducing our energy consumption and find more subtle ways of energy extractions in nuclear fusion or in positron/electron anti-matter we have the unsustainable use of fossil fuels, nuclear fission and bio-mass combustion.
  4. On a local level we can dispense with the grander schemes and support smallholdings that endeavour to become autonomous in many of it's requirements whilst improving the bio-diversity of it's holding. The biodiversity will have a knock-on effect and the working lifestyle will produce value in it's innovation, produce and community responsibility.
  5. A major consideration is that the amount of energy the average UK resident uses (1985) is about 6 tonnes of oil compared to US citizens using 9 tonnes. This is to be compared to the average Ethiopian using 55 Kilos, less that 1% of the average UK resident.
  6. It may be possible to sustain the production of 1 tonne of energy per acre from plants, via potatoes, wheat, sugar beet or willow coppicing etc., but the clear message is that we have to reduce our consumption to probably 1/10, (one tenth) of the present rate to be have a sustainable future based on renewable energies.
  7. We dare not wait around for nuclear fusion and anti-matter technologies to advance and there's no knowing what sort of damaging effects they, in turn, may have.

The minimum requirements for new homes and workspaces should be effective insulation so that they require no heating or cooling, and autonomy in water and waste disposal.
An example of this is to be found in the Urtekram Factory, Jutland, Denmark.

Quotes from Urtekram 2nd July, 1999

"Urtekram's principal manufacturing site is at Mariager in Jutland, one of the most beautiful parts of Denmark. Urtekram moved into this factory on August 8th 1988. It is unique in that it is registered with the Danish government as an environmental production unit.This means that representatives of the department of the Environment and Foods Control visit the factory regularly to ensure that all claims made for the Urtekram range of products can be justified. For example under these regulations Urtekram are only allowed to buy ingredients from suppliers who can prove that their workers receive decent wages and work under reasonable conditions.

The factory itself makes extensive use of recycled materials. Energy conservation is ensured by double glazed windows (the wood for the frames comes from sustainable sources) whilst the walls and ceilings are triple-layered. The buildings are so energy efficient the warehouse needs no heating in the winter and no cooling in the summer."

"Great care is devoted to the welfare of the 65 people who work at Urtekram making products. Every workstation has its own window, with lots of natural light and a nice view.
The workforce is arranged into working groups of 4-7 people who decide amongst themselves what hours they will work. The nominal week is 37 hours but workers are allowed great flexibility in fitting their working hours to suit their other commitments (especially children). By common consent the whole factory is a non-smoking and alcohol-free environment. Wages are above average for the region. Many workers have been with Urtekram for 15 years. Some commute to work on a bicycles, for which they receive a mileage allowance.

The power supply for the factory comes from a combination of windmills and a hay-burning power station about 200 metres away, which burns hay provided by local farmers. Thus the factory is self-sufficient in power."

Although it wasn't until 1988, 14 years ago, Urtekram built their own zero emission, autonomous warehouse they started putting their money where their ideas were, and developed a business with the goal of realistic 'Recycling, Renewability, Sustainability and Consumerism' in 1975

The Rio summit 10 years ago is plagiary of ideas, with the purpose of establishing authoritarian controls on how sustainability can be administered and managed. There is no evidence by those who postulate sustainabilty, of any understanding of the real commitment or of doing anything remotely sustainable themselves.

The same eco-consciousness has existed for decades. Then as the 21st Century approaches National and subject Local authorities get on the bandwagon when enough people can be envisaged to invest in sustainable endeavours; whence the authorities each see the possibilities of more layers of administration to control and then demand taxes to implement 'sustainability.

If it wasn't so sad I'd laugh at it!

A futher two significant questions to be asked

  1. What is the total input of energy via sun sourced photons which arrives per hour.
  2. What is the total energy output of earth from low energy heat, relected and primary light, and other higher and lower electromagnetic radiations per hour.

We shall avoid the query into quantum and substratum (subspace or substream) energy sources as they are not commonly usable in a biologically environmental format, they will need more subtle sub-atomic and quantum-mechanics to be publicly accessable.

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