Environmental Sustainability = Economic Sustainability

Truth be told, if any piece of a system is sustainable it has a natural sustaining effect on the other parts. By sustainable I mean the true definition of the word, the capacity to endure. This can be applied to any system, natural or human-made.

For example, if we build a civilization that is dependent on non-renewable energy sources, we’ve built a unsustainable civilization, one that cannot endure. The same is true of business. A business built on top of an uncertain foundation might benefit from rapid growth while that foundation holds but when it fails, watch the greedy bastards that set it up jump off like rats leaving a sinking ship, before it sinks.

This is actually the main reason all the dominos in our economic game fell in sequence. When a big one drops, (like home values), other segments that were dependent on unsustainable resources, (like borrowed capital), saw their foundations crumble. Since so many small businesses were built on the foundation of borrowed home equity, we naturally saw the failure of many small businesses when the home value bubble burst.

I was surprised to see corporate giant AT&T running ahead with a renewable energy program. This shows how they must understand how environmental sustainability will help to ensure their economic sustainability. They will be keeping their networks alive with solar power.

It would be nice to see more regular folks embrace this business strategy and apply it to their own lives. Imagine how sustainable our civilization would be if we were all a bit more self-reliant.

My Home’s Value is Dropping Again

I was listening to Kunstler’s podcast (#122) tonight and he gave a fairly good explanation of how parts of the financial world work; including the reality that many financial institutions could be holding toxic assets. The truth is that an asset is only toxic if it brings the show to an end.

Take my mortgage for example. My home’s value has been fairly stable for about a year, bouncing along the bottom. I’ve been hoping it would creep back up and meet me half way so I can refinance or sell. I’m an optimist.

But sadly it just took another downturn. I suspect it’s partially due to the the time of year and all the talk in the media about the possibility of a double-dip recession. Who knows what the cause is, but it definitely gives me a moment of pause but doesn’t change my plan.

I’ll keep paying this mortgage until I can’t. I’ll also keep noodling over low-cost simple housing options and looking for ways to move in the right direction. Tiny houses are great therapy for that.

The other thing I take solace in is that while nobody can predict the future, we can all tell when we’re walking on thin ice if we’re paying attention. So I’ll take each step with care and keep that rope tied tightly to my belt. I might take a dip in the ice-cold water but I’ll always be able to pull myself to shore.

Could Modern Humans be Suffering from a Form of Zoochosis?

We took Katie to the Sacramento Zoo this past weekend and while we had a good time, I came back with the general impression that we’re doing a terrible disservice to the animals there. Seeing the Orangutan, which translates from Malay to man of the forest, really pushed me over the top and convinced me that detaining animals for out amusement is really terribly wrong.

The Orangutan seemed more like a primitive early human to me than what one might call an animal. Later I read about a condition called Zoochosis that surfaces in animals kept in captivity. For some species the trauma caused by captivity is more obvious through their behavior but I suspect all animals in captivity suffer from some level of Zoochosis. This seems logical at least.

Humans in Voluntary Captivity

Then I began to noodle over my own captivity provided by our society. Everyday I sit incented to work at this desk in the captivity of my home office. The captivity is voluntary to a degree since my bills would not get paid if I left my desk. Since I want to live in society I must conform to a certain set of activities in order to maintain the protection this societal cage provides.

Then my thinking moves out to the other people in society and the unnatural environment we’ve constructed and wonder the same thing. Could we all be clinging to the imaginary bars of our cages wishing subconsciously that they would disappear, while at the same time working hard to maintain the system that makes them very real?

Waking Up

This would explain my own fascination with the freedom tiny houses represent and their growing popularity with the general public. When times are good and we’re well-fed our cage bars seem more like comforting protection than a trap. When times are tough the bars feel as if they close-in on us increasing the pressure and stress we feel.

Everyone reacts differently to stress. I think I’ve been observing two common reactions from humans in captivity. Some cling to the system and wish things improve so they can go back to their happiness inside the cage, so they keep up their normal routines as best they can. Others freak out a bit and work to escape as they realize the cage is really a trap, and begin to reject the system and attempt to reinvent it in another form.


The trouble with all of us animals, in and out of the zoo, is that our cages are part of a much bigger world. If the zoo animal escapes it will be recaptured or killed, depending on the danger it represents. If we escape and reject our society we are subject to living a dramatically different life or jailed, depending on the danger we represent.

So we’re all very much stuck in a catch-22 unless the entire system changes. I bet this is why there are so many people wishing-for and preparing-for civilization collapse. They’ve collapsed under the weight of society and their stress reaction is to see things that may or may not be there. Or you could look at from their perspective and say they’ve woken up to the lie the cage represents and see the looming systemic failure approaching.

In Search of Solutions

I’m always in search of ways to have my cake and eat it too, which may also be a problem because I’ll tend to cling to the old while seeking the new. For example extreme downsizing seems more and more like the right direction to move in but it’s just a smaller version of the societal cage we all live in now. But it also might be a point along the path to finding real freedom.

I’m also really beginning to believe that seeking a natural modern human environment might need to be part of my ultimate goal. I’m not sure what this is exactly, but I suspect it involves other like-minded people living tribally (for lack of a better word).

This last statement of course suggests a step backwards but I don’t know if that is really a requirement. We have definitely gone too far, but I doubt if going back to how we lived 10,000 years ago is the answer. It must be something in between.

So now you can clearly see that I think too much… or that I’m suffering from Zoochosis. LOL

Dream Cabins on the California Coast

Julia and I daydream about moving back to the Mendocino Coast all the time. She ran across this place online that has two small cabins on 5 acres. The property is located just north of Fort Bragg, California and just a few minutes inland from MacKerricher State Park; which is where I proposed to Julia 14 1/2 years ago.

The place seems ideal to me. It has a small house for Julia, Katie and me and another cabin for Pop and Grammie (a.k.a. Dick and Sherry). There’s also plenty of room for building tiny houses, teaching tiny house workshops, making pottery, and plenty of space for family & friends to visit once we get a couple tiny houses built. It also has a fast internet connection which would make it easy for me to do my work-from-home webmaster job while I continue to explore tiny houses and pottery on the side.

One of the things that concerns me about moving back to Mendocino County right now is the looming reality that Proposition 19 might crush the local economy. I realize that for most folks it’s hard to understand how a local economy in northern California can grow so dependent on Marijuana, but it has become the cornerstone of prosperity in the Emerald Triangle.

The fear is that if the law passes, everything including real estate values, will be hit hard. This is pure speculation of course because nobody can really predict the economic impact of legalization. So logically it would make more sense from a home buying perspective to wait and see what happens in the November election.

But then again this is an incredibly tight-knit community I’d be proud to be a member of through thick or thin. I also suspect they would weather the economic impact far better than most. We’re also lucky that our income is not regionally dependent, with money coming in from my tiny house blogging and webmaster day-job.

So we’ll see how the cards fall into place, or not. If this place doesn’t work out there will always be other opportunities. We’re not in any hurry either and prepared to weather the economic storm no matter what’s on the horizon.

But tonight… I know what I’ll be having sweet dreams about. 🙂