Archive for September 2014
This is an encore Green Builder’s Journal entry discussing the definition of sustainability. It’s from 2011 and it’s still valid today.
So I left off last time with the word “sustainable”.
If a house, or a neighborhood, a City, or even a Nation, had an unlimited supply of energy, then in theory the demand for energy wouldn’t really matter. Scarcity is eliminated in a world where energy is unlimited, therefore the house, or the City, or whatever, “sustains” itself. It has zero affect on natural resources because nothing is being depleted in order for, whichever entity were talking about, to function.
The idea of anything that REQUIRES energy to function being able to PROVIDE that same energy on its own, is the pure definition of “Sustainability”.
Today, for the most part, the energy required to run our homes comes from electricity and natural gas. Natural gas is obviously a natural resource, and although it doesn’t seem to be limited in supply, clearly it is. At some point in the future the planet will simply run out of natural gas or it will be cost prohibitive to keep looking for it.
Electricity, on the other hand, has to be generated. Although wind and water can generate electricity in almost unlimited supply, most of the electricity we use today comes from coal and oil based generation sources. Coal and oil are obvious natural resources and unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 50 years, you’re painfully aware of the fact that neither is available in unlimited supply.
By the way I should expand the definition of the word unlimited to include the word “free”. In Economic terms, something is truly unlimited, if and only if, its supply is never ending AND its cost is essentially zero. That’s why I say the Sun is an unlimited supply of energy. Its never ending (except at night) and its free. No one owns it, has a license or lease on it, nor is it difficult to harness. Its just there.
So you can see where I’m heading here.
If the free and unlimited energy from the Sun can be used to generate the electricity we need to power our homes, than not only would we not need to use coal or oil, but we could eliminate the need for natural gas as well. It wouldn’t matter how much energy we demanded to operate our homes because the free and unlimited supply of energy from the Sun means there is zero cost and 100% sustainability for each and every home, neighborhood, City, or Nation that adopts this VERY green strategy.
But is that really true? Is energy the only real aspect of our modern lifestyles that requires natural resources?
I think we know the answer to both is NO.
Next time I’ll explain why.