If anything were possible......

If anything were possible—and I do believe that anything is indeed possible given the right amounts of imagination, ingenuity, determination, dedication and good, old fashioned, hard work—what is the one change I would make in the world?   After countless hours of contemplation on this subject, I have come to the conclusion that I would make all existing human communities into sustainable communities.  This is a tall order, but I believe that it is entirely possible. 

I’ll start by describing the type of community I have in mind.  A sustainable community, to me, is one that meets the needs of its current population without damaging the prospects of future generations or stealing the resources of other communities.  When I think of human needs I think of these things: 
  • clean, fresh air to breathe
  • clear, clean, fresh water to drink
  • nourishing, nutrition-filled food
  • shelter
  • clothing
  • family, friends, community
  • education
  • transportation
  • cultural enrichment--art, music, literature, dance, etc
  • health care, medicine, preventative care
In order to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we grow our food, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers would be strictly regulated and the use of natural pest control and fertilizers would be encouraged.  In order to conserve our dwindling fossil fuel supplies and again, protect our shared air, water, and land, all buildings would use wind or solar or micro-hydro power for their electricity needs.  We would use passive solar, thermal mass and natural convection for heating and cooling our living and working spaces.  We would use the water that falls from the sky to drink and wash, then reuse that water to irrigate our food plants.  We could actually eliminate the use of water in toilets entirely.  There are now numerous affordable options for clean and efficient composting and incinerating toilets.  New buildings could be designed this way, older buildings could be retrofitted to be super efficient. We would abolish “throwaway” products.  We would more highly value products that can last a lifetime.  We would reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair.  In our closed system, the Earth, nothing would be thought of as “trash”, but rather as a precious resource.  In a sustainable community, work, school, shopping, entertainment, and living places could be within walking or bicycling distance from one another. Bicycling and pedestrian pathways would be the rule rather than the exception.  We would have high speed, affordable, high quality, and efficient mass transit in and between every city on every continent.

When we think of Planet Earth, our shared home, as one large community we see that the well-being of each one of us is tied to and dependent upon the well-being of every other one of us.  We currently have many types of human communities across the globe, but we are indeed one large interdependent community, as well.  Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”   In my mind the same applies to resources.  Those who would deny resources (clean air, water, food, shelter, clothing, education, transportation) to others deserve them not for themselves.  By using more than our fair share of limited resources (fossil fuels, metals, water) we deny others their fair share, others in poorer countries and future generations.  By polluting the air we all share and breathe, we deny others the basic resource of fresh air.  Often, by buying cheap, throwaway goods, we deny others a living wage, a fair wage, and in so doing we deny them access to nourishing food, comfortable shelter, and quality education.  In order for our individual communities and our one large community to be sustainable, we must all be aware of whether or not we are using more than our fair share.

Our planet currently supports the lives of more than 6.8 billion human beings.   According to the World Watch Institute, we can expect 3 billion more to join us in the next 50 years for a projected population of almost 10 billion by the year 2060.   I believe that we currently have the resources, ingenuity, know how, and man (or woman) power to meet all the needs of every human on this planet and to do so without robbing future generations of the resources they will need to survive and thrive.  What we lack is the collective will to do so.  But I believe, passionately, that we are at a turning point and that this is not the time to lose hope.  I believe that the future of humanity can be bright and joyful.  Will you join me in making this idea a reality?

I highly recommend that everyone on Planet Earth read this book:
Plan B 4.0, Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester Brown.

You can download it for free from the link above or here:
Earth Policy Institute.


  1. Excellent Dawn, very good points all. However I believe that modern humans have come to enjoy a comfort level obtained by the exploitation of our natural resources in order for a certain level of "convenience". We, as concerned citizens of this precious "community" called planet earth must educate the rest of the population by example. So many questions, so many conversations, so little time.

  2. ah, I love that. Living by example. It helps if the living is joyous as well as eco-friendly. :-)

  3. update: As of today, August 24th, 2014, the world population is estimated to me more than 7.2 billion and continues to grow rapidly.

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  5. and an update on the book too: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/wote