As the TWOG continues to explore ways to spark and support Transition Whatcom's efforts, we have begun a discussion about our own personal efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and prepare for climate change. The next few TWOG blog posts will be about our individual efforts, questions and dilemmas. Hopefully this will become the beginning of a community-wide discussion, which can then help inform the creation of an EDAP/ARC for neighborhoods, and eventually for our county as a whole.
Ironically, perhaps, I live a less sustainable lifestyle now than I did 2 years ago. Two years ago I owned a home on Peabody Street near Cornwall Park. I had lived there for about 13 years and raised my daughter there. I rode my bicycle to work more days than not, using my car only to go long distances or when I had to carry alot of things. I had a large garden - with raspberries and blueberries, apples, pears and plums, lots of vegies, and a "backyard wildlife sanctuary". I loved bringing in native plants for fruit and seeds for birds. It felt like a good beginning to a lifestyle that lowered my carbon footprint and did some good things for the natural environment. My home had wonderful solar exposure in all directions, and was quite small and inexpensive to heat.
A "series of unfortunate events", including a major health crisis, put me into a financial position where selling my home was my best option. After a long and convoluted process, I rented a home in Sudden Valley for about 20 months. This experience taught me a great deal about how many people live. I was surrounded by beautiful forest, but living unsustainably.
I was dependent on my car to get to work most of the time (and it is 18 miles round trip), because the bus is too infrequent to be very helpful. My home was too shady to grow food or to compost. Although I heated my home partially with wood from a maple tree on the property, and partly with pressed logs made from recycled sawdust (these are great! and produce little or no particulate when they burn), I was still dependent on electricity to run the blower on the insert as well as to supplement the wood stove.
Sudden Valley could potentially become more self-sustaining eventually by using the golf course as a farm, and there is a community garden space. The steepness of the hills, however, makes it almost impossible to bike, even to the golf course. Even walking is a challenge in some areas. Eventually I decided that the best thing I could do is to move back into town. I am just settling into a spot where I can do at least some gardening, that has better heat retention, and where I can bicycle to work.
The two largest challenges for me as I consider Transition are: creating financial stability and eliminating debt; and healthcare. To be honest, I really do not know what I will do about these things. At this time I am very vulnerable to economic instability, and my health is dependent on medications produced by big pharmaceutical companies. I am also aware that I am limited in what I can do to adapt my home because I am renting; and that bicycling (or walking even) is only available as transportation as long as my health (and/or knees!) allows. This is where our community transition as a whole can help, I think. We are all interwoven with society, and dependent on an unsustainable system. I am curious about what others think and feel about this.
I want to add that, for me, preparing for Transition also means developing my sense of place, and my connection with the ecosystem in which I live. That means, in part, discovering the shape of the land, and developing some basic knowledge of local ecosystems, plants, animals, birds, etc., as well as participating in ecosystem restoration. It also means falling in love with a place. I believe that our love and sense of being connected to the land where we live is not only restorative to ourselves, but also to the land itself. When I am in nature, and my mind is quiet, I find that birds and animals come closer, and I am drawn into magical moments; and when I find ways to express my connectedness to a place, uncannily, it responds.