With the new year comes the time for resolutions, and there has never been a year more in need of some strong resolutions to change our ways. As climate change challenges our accepted ways of doing things, what can we really do on our small island that would reverberate beyond our shores? I did some research into what people on other islands in the world are doing to mitigate climate change and couldn’t come up with a good match.
Manhattan is just the right size and fairly close to the mainland, but they have 1.6 million people, about 150 times as many as Vashon. It is interesting, though, that the median income in Manhattan is only $47,000/yr., though the richest zip code in the country, the Upper East Side of Manhatten, has a median income of $90,000/yr. Compare that to Vashon’s median of $77,000/yr. So, we are a relatively wealthy enclave with far lower population density and a status that is variously thought of as somewhere between suburban and rural.
In looking for other islands to compare ourselves to, most that are gaining a reputation for going green are in or near an ocean. That almost always means reliable wind power. Those in sunnier climes had generous solar power to boot. Most of these other islands, being somewhat to very remote, were more economically self-reliant and did not support a commuter population bringing back wealth from a big city. Some of the larger islands have their own urban and rural areas and, for all practical purposes, have little to offer us in the way of comparison.
So, we are a relatively wealthy island with low human population, 85% forested, and lots of goods and services readily available as we sit in the middle of a major metropolitan area. We mustn’t forget that we also have a low-income population that is struggling to survive out here. I would say that we are fairly aware of lifestyle changes we need to make to mitigate climate change, and we have many local groups working to promote these changes. We just don’t have a real active commitment from our population at large. Most of us recycle, are reasonably careful with our trash, and we have an above-average number of households invested in solar panels. But until we really take our lifestyle head on, we are not really going to make much headway in the climate crisis.
To develop a more resilient, localized economy that takes care of everybody, we are not going to be driven by immediate economic hardship. We still have plenty of high carbon choices that are cheap and readily available. We will need to be driven by ideas, by love, and by example. The necessity of our actions will be obvious in the long run, but not in the short run.
There are many opportunities to learn how to be more resilient. There are classes offered by VIGA and Zero Waste Vashon on gardening, seed saving, composting, and natural landscaping. Garden Green offers alternatives to toxic pest and weed control. One can get a free consultation on the physical and financial feasibility of solar power at your home, and state-sponsored Community Solar offers another option for neighborhoods. There are opportunities to be more tuned in to our natural environment through the Land Trust, Vashon Nature Center, Audubon Society, the Wilderness Awareness School, and free field trips exploring such things as our tidelands and geology. Check out the Whole Vashon Catalog for ideas. Resolution: Take advantage of the local opportunities to learn.
Let’s consider once again establishing a public utility district for power supply. What was impractical once may not be in the future. We can buy power from the BPA that is primarily renewable hydro. We can develop our local solar potential. The less power we need, the more feasible energy independence.
Then there is the problem of managing all the stuff our industrial/technological juggernaut makes available to us. I have a rule of thumb that works for me. Imagining what it would take for me to make a replacement of one item or another from scratch gives me a real appreciation of its true value. Take care of your stuff, and if it breaks down, repair it. I even go through this process with a bent nail. (Alright, that may be a little obsessive, but could you make a nail?) Resolution: Be mindful of your acquisitions.
When the pandemic passes, try to maintain your avoidance of unnecessary travel. Resolution: Think before you go. Do you really need to go now?
More resolution ideas: Grow a vegetable garden, learn to use it, naturalize your lawn, build a raingarden if it is appropriate, no more toxins!, insulate your home, give to the Interfaith Council on Homelessness (IFCH) so that your neighbors have a home, use the Time Exchange to get help and to offer help, meet your neighbors (after covid), join a community group.
The less that we can get by with, the easier it will be to localize our economy and be self-sufficient and resilient in the tumultuous days ahead.
Comments or ideas?