Tuesday 9 March 2010

More on my struggles with low carbon living

When I think about ways in which I can change my life so that it is more resilient, the two most immediate changes are fuel use and food. I’ll come to food in the next post.

I wrote about my reduced use of gas for heating yesterday, and I feel quite pleased with the progress we are making there. Besides using more wood and less gas and keeping the house cooler, we’ve also been insulating it as much as we can (it is ancient and listed, so there is a limit to what we do). So far so good.

Then there is transport. That is a much more difficult one. We have a very active social life, and often go places where, if we had to use public transport as it is now, we simply wouldn’t go. We aren’t yet ready to take that step. We go dancing a lot, and almost always arrange to travel with friends so we have a full car. But we do end up going to Norwich often, and only sometimes go by train. (We live in Diss.)

About 10 years ago, we joined with a group of people who bought land in Portugal, for group holidays. It is a very beautiful area, in the Algarve, near the sea. For most of those years I was going there probably twice a year for about a week or two.

While there we lead a much simpler life, in much wilder land, with very little water and only a small solar panel for electricity. We have compost toilets and a bucket shower. We usually do a lot of physical practical work on the place, which again is quite different from the rest of my life.

We had a group project building a beautiful straw bale house. Unfortunately, it was flawed and was later torn down, but we had such fun making it.

The beaches are stunning, and we have got to know the area really well. Lots of pretty towns and cheap local restaurants.

Every time I have gone I have loved it.

What a great environmentally sound project! (Or was it?)

But of course, it is a long way away. We have almost always flown (and as last week’s blog made clear, that is an ELEPHANT!) We drove once, but it took several days each way, and is no better than flying in terms of personal fuel use. My wife came back by train once, but that was also slow, difficult and much more expensive than flying. And we have to drive to the airport and hire a car at the other end.

So, really quite reluctantly, I have decided – again on aesthetic grounds – to give it up, or at best, to go very rarely. I haven’t been there for nearly two years now.

These first two posts have been about how I have been making changes in my life to reduce my impact on the Earth in ways that actually feel like living worse. They are better aesthetically, in the sense that they are a more appropriate way of living, but I don’t really think that is what Transition is all about. It is a part of it, but really, we are trying to create better lives for ourselves and our communities.

I’ll try to move in that direction in the rest of my posts this week.

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