03 April 2010

Permaculture Winona - 2

One of the things I heard in the permaculture group meeting that keeps spinning around in my head was a wistfulness about being able to sell one's old, outdated, inefficient house and build the sustainable dream house - which, to me, smacks of naivety and the consumer-driven model to get another chance at living well...

That's not really very articulate, but I'm still trying to form a response to the knot in my stomach/chest that this kind of thinking causes. I'll try to say it better:

Imagine you could discard the old house, that you could sell it and build your perfect sustainable home... who wouldn't love to do that? Who wouldn't feel ten-times better about oneself in doing that? Wouldn't that be great? Just think about how great it would be for the world if we all did that...

But wait a moment - what would happen to this house that I'd be leaving behind. One of four things would happen to it:
  1. another person would buy the house and live unsustainably in it,
  2. no one would buy the house and live unsustainably in it because everyone would be looking for sustainable housing - which actually would probably preclude me being able to build my dream house,
  3. if I did find a way to build my dream house without someone else taking on this unsustainable albatross then this house would either sit empty (much like the abandoned and foreclosed on houses across the land - which spawns a whole other list of issues)... or,
  4. the house would be torn down and someone (maybe even me) would build a new sustainable house on the property - and all the history and culture in this 110-year old building would be lost...
Wouldn't the best solution be to make every house more sustainable instead of building new sustainable houses?

I'd like to see serious discussion on this idea. How can an old house - one whose "ecological mortgage" has been long paid in full - become part of the sustainable life we want to live?

Abelisto talks about sustainability and the treadmill of production. The idea about selling this old house and building a new sustainable one is very much akin to the idea of producing our way out of the mess we're in.

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