Trying to Live the Dream
By Felix Dodds in the New Jersey publication My Whole Person (October 2013)
All of us wish to hand to our children a better world in which they can live. This wish may drive you to work longer hours, take an extra job or move to a new house for a better school system. I know that as a parent I want my children, Merri and Robin, to have every extra chance to succeed.
The reality of the world today, however, is that a better world may not be on the horizon– or at least not in the traditional way that we have measured it during the 20th century. The model of economic growth that much of the world uses is unsustainable and will have a serious impact on the future. Much of today’s economic growth is fueled by the burning of carbon in one form or another, resulting, according to 98% of the world’s climatic scientists, to climate change that will likely change our planet forever.
Over the last twenty years I have been Executive Director of an environmental non-profit working to persuade government to make the right decisions before the impacts are felt, not afterwards. But I’ve also worked to make sure that individuals, including me, also make the right decisions.
Living sustainably is a challenge as we have built our urban infrastructure around cars, our vacations around planes and our houses without much concern for energy efficiency. Luckily, there are many ways to minimize your impact.
As the head of an international organization I’ve attended a lot of meetings – flying there is part of the job. When I’ve had control of the flights I’ve ensured that the carbon produced is offset.
For many years I lived with such a great public transport system that I didn’t need a car. I moved to Apex, North Carolina a few years ago and bought a house close to shops and bus stops. Unfortunately, before I moved in the local government decided to limit the bus to once a day but I still managed, until very recently, to live without a car as all my shopping was in walking distance and if I needed something further away I hired a car.
Living that way imposed some limits on what I could do but it also had positives. I went out and bought a bike that expanded my horizons and made me healthier. After twenty years in the basement of the United Nations I started to see my heath as a sustainability issue.
Recently, I had the opportunity to install a much more efficient air conditioner and am now looking at adding solar panels to my roof. Bit by bit I am changing my lifestyle to match with what I have been telling others they need to do.
If you are interested in living sustainably the key is to take baby steps. Moving forward little by little means saving money, eating better, being healthier and helping leave a more sustainable planet for all our children – so they can also live the dream.