Permaculture Series – Energy Descent Action Plan

We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.”
~ Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

For most people in Western societies and increasingly more people from non-Western too, life has become a series of “warehouses”:  we put our children in warehouses (we call them childcares or schools), we live, work, shop and entertain in warehouses (cookie-cut houses we never own, gigantic buildings, malls, supermarkets, mass-produced entertainment) and we put our elders in warehouses to age, get sick and die (we call them daycares or retirement houses). And all for what? To get a “better life” , which in our society means more, newer and bigger stuff (more, bigger and newer houses, cars, appliances, toys, clothes, furniture, travels that mean nothing, parties that mean nothing, food that doesn’t taste and doesn’t nurture and so on…

And because more, bigger and newer leaves us empty, we set out to get even more, faster, bigger and newer…

I know people who have so many CDs that have played each only once, but they continue buying…children who are given gifts that are used once and then go to the closet forever, clothes that are used once, and people who have rooms full of shoes…

“Stuff” consumes energy and uses resources, many of them non-renewable: from mining the raw materials to make it, transporting them, processing the “thing” (whatever it is), using it and disposing of it (many times after a few uses). The same happens with services that require using and moving things around, such as travelling, restaurants and so on.

When we talk about Energy Descent Action Plans, they can apply to one individual, a household, a workplace, institution or whole community. EDAP are about living sustainably and leaving resources and energy for future generations and other peoples around the world. EDAPs are part of Permaculture because they are based in the three ethics: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.

I started my and my family EDAP about two years ago, but it is now, that I’m preparing for my own Permaculture journey, that I’m starting to become more serious about it.

My first steps consisted on the usual: I stopped using the dishwasher and started the two-sink method, use the dryer only for big items, switched to cloth napkins, reuse old clothes for cleaning, changed bulbs, put on a sweater in winter, etc.

What else is needed?

The first step is to take inventory: watch what you currently have and use and how you use it. The components of a good EDAP are the reduction of:

  • Energy (and switch to passive and raw as much as possible, create own within your community/household limits)
  • Resources: consume less and pay more attention where the resources to make the stuff and services you consume come from
  • Stuff (less stuff, less services that depend or consume stuff and energy)
  • Money (less debt, less mortgage
  • Consumerism: produce and share more, consume less
  • Waste: reduce or eliminate waste. Or use it as input to produce energy and resources, such as compost

The tricks to do the above are based on creativity and teamwork: you won’t come up with all the solutions and ideas, you need to meet others, read, share and talk. And you need to try out different approaches to find the one that works for your special circumstances and time.

These steps may help:

  • Use the “R’s” method as much as possible:
  • Reject: packaging, bagging, unnecessary purchases or gifts, consumerism
  • Reduce: reduce shopping for things. Instead: need less things, do without or create an exchange system so things cycle through it instead of being “consumed” and the wasted…
  • Reuse: find other uses for things around the house or swap them with people who may have other uses for them
  • Repair: repair broken or malfunctioning things, clothes, etc (this is part of the re-skilling)
  • Recycle: when there is no other option…
  • Ask deeper questions:
  • Do you, your family or community need it?
  • Does this thing or service care for the Earth (from cradle to grave, meaning from the resources it is made from to manufacturing, transportation and waste management)?
  • Does this thing or service care for People? (again, from cradle to grave: who got the resources and what were their work conditions? Who worked in the factory and who delivers the services? How are they compensated? Are they safe and respected?
  • Does this thing or service involve fair share? Is this something only a few can get? Is this scarce and may your acquiring this thing or service make them unavailable or scarce for others who need it? Or are you accumulating something you don’t need, making it more expensive?
  • What is the use you will give to this object or service? How is it going to improve your life or that of others? Is it making you or others more resilient, happier?
  • How much is this object or service going to last? What other uses may it have after its “life” is over? What will happen when you have to discard it?
  • Are you completely sure you don’t have a similar object or can get the same results with something you already have at home? What about something you can get for free at a library or exchange service? From a family member, friend or neighbour?
  • Can you make it yourself?

  • Try different methods to get and dispose of things are services. If they don’t exist around you, check further or create one with your friends:
  • Regular libraries for books, CDs and DVDs
  • Tool libraries for garden, craft and house-repair tools
  • Clothes, books or kitchenware swap parties
  • Shrift stores
  • Plant an edible garden to get fruit, vegetables and herbs
  •  Compost and mulch
  • Preserve your food: dehydrate, can, freeze
  • Share the surplus
  • Join a co-op or start one
  • Carpool, walk, bike or use public transportation
  • Join or start a re-skilling or skill-swapping “club”

My own EDAP is far from perfect: I still have tons of “stuff” at home that I don’t know how it got there or how to dispose of. I still buy more things that I need or whose origin or processing is dark for me and I still use lots of energy and resources. But at least I have started.

The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
~ Bill Mollison

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