11th july 2014
“Sustainability = Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding a depletion of natural resources”.
The ground is a living organism much like the skin on our bodies. In nature it can take 100 years to build up an inch of topsoil. Sticks, leaves and grasses always cover this fertile and nutrient-rich layer of soil. Once you take away the covering, the topsoil is exposed. Once exposed it dries out, loses its structure and either becomes compacted or gets dusty and blown away, ending up in rivers causing sedimentation and nutrient problems there.
Unknowingly at the time, in building some chairs I also contributed to this problem. Whilst the trees were still standing, I took the branches and leaves away that would naturally sit beneath the tree protecting the topsoil. When we take away any living thing from the land, we are depleting the natural resources of that land. This is happening all around us as we are consuming products from distant places for our buildings, our appetites and our electricity.
When I originally built the chairs it was something ‘fun’ to do and also saved a bit of coin – at the time we simply had very little spare money. Though if I had the money I would have likely gone out and bought some chairs. I think this represents another challenge to sustainability in that change is unlikely to occur unless people are either forced to or decide to.
Sustainability needs to operate on a matter of principle rather than requirement.
I admit my chairs are not the most comfortable things to sit in, though much better than standing up. But by being prepared to not partake in some of the comfort and convenience of modern society I was able to achieve a more sustainable result.
Now when I think about sustainability I approach the issue from the earth upwards. Understanding the land and soil that we are on and how best to use, maintain and tend it. The challenge is how to be truly sustainable in the building industry that we are involved in.
Footnote. Alas … a few months ago the dining chairs found a new home outside on the back porch, as we were given some comfy secondhand dining chairs with plush fabric coverings. Ahhh life is good.