Evolving from Nonrenewables

The human economy runs almost exclusively on nonrenewable, unsustainable materials and energies. The materials used in every building and every purchase made at every store rely on nonrenewables for their distribution, are derived from nonrenewables, or are nonrenewable. The fertilizers, trucks, clothing, roads, machinery, transportation, and tools—everything is inextricably linked to and dependent on the use of nonrenewables. The average food item purchased at the corner market traveled 2,000 miles before it was eaten. This is important, because when comparing organic apples to organic oranges, the distribution energy—the energy consumed transporting the product to the market—exceeds the food energy value. So even when the crop itself is sustainable, the distribution methods are not. The critical step in evolving from nonrenewables is to be powered and supplied locally.

Worldwide, urbanism—and all its buildings, people, and jobs—is 100 percent dependent on nonrenewables and cannot function without them. Virtually all buildings, communities, towns, and cities will have to be retrofitted for an alternative source—a source, unless it is natural renewable energy, that is not known at this time.

Estimates of oil reserves, whether growing or shrinking, are not the harbinger of a sustainable future at any scale. Design that ties its value and future to increasing efficiency of a nonrenewable energy may be reducing pollution, but the designs are not sustainable—they cannot be used for their intended purpose without nonre-newables. The design may be firm and delightful; but if it is not functioning, it does not have commodity. All major projects in the design and construction phase today, from the scale of buildings to new towns, will be powered by an alternative energy within 20 years—which is within their expected period of operation and use.

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