Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why I'm committed to living sustainably

This is a re-post from my May 12, 2014 blog
Someone recently asked me why I am so committed to living sustainably. The question took me completely by surprise, and I was unable to come up with a cogent response in the moment. After pondering this question for almost 2 weeks I came up with a response.

Part of my response can be summarized as: “I’m an engineer dammit!”. Most of what I do for a living is design and develop electronic products. As an engineer, it is my job to use technology to solve problems, and in this case I am addressing climate change directly using technologies that I find engaging. If misusing technology has gotten us into this mess then appropriate use of technology should be able to get us out of it. By transitioning our global energy systems to renewable ones, I have hope that we can limit the damage to our planet.

I also fall into the demographic category known as the “Cultural Creatives“. Cultural Creatives is the term coined by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., to describe the group of individuals who are the early adopters of progressive trends in a society. They are the ones who are creating and defining the future of life and living. As a rare combination of both artist and engineer, I am someone uniquely suited to think outside the box and vision an inspiring future for humanity.

I also read a great deal of science fiction, particularly the subgenre of extrapolative fiction in which authors take an existing facet of our contemporary society and explore outcomes.  A number of authors have tackled climate change in various ways.  Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a trilogy: “Forty Signs of Rain“, “Fifty Degrees Below” and “Sixty Days and Counting“. These books are set in present day Washington DC and center around the sociological and political aspects of abrupt climate change. The central character endures significant challenges personally and professionally and makes the whole story come alive with the direct impact of climate change on his life.  These books left a profound mark on my perception of the larger issue and imbued me with a sense of urgency to do what I can personally.

I have spent some time at the Maine Statehouse lobbying for renewable energy bills, and I became so discouraged by the response within the Utility and Energy committee that I gave up.  As I watch the American federal government become more and more dysfunctional, I realize that the solution to the world’s problems will not be political it will be up to those of us operating within civil society to take direct and personal responsibility for the well-being of our planet. The good news is that a large number of cities, counties, and states in the US are choosing to take action independently of the federal government, and I find that very encouraging.