Tag Archives: environment

Grow More Stuff to Help the Environment

IMG_2330.JPGI’ve got a theory: We should grow more stuff.

The other day I was reading an article from a conservative Republican meteorologist concerned about climate change. His impassioned arguments made me want to do more to be environmentally friendly. I started thinking of things I could do and I was coming up blank. I already do a lot—recycling as much as possible, using re-usable containers and bags, trying to minimize water and electricity use, etc.—and something like getting a more fuel efficient car or furnace isn’t a choice you get to make every day.

But then I started thinking about my yard. I have a pretty low impact yard (i.e., I’m lazy). I don’t use any gas-powered tools or harsh chemicals. So my yard isn’t doing much harm. But is it doing any good?

I started thinking about all the good that plants do. They replenish oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, clean the air, reduce heat in the summer and block wind in the winter, reduce noise, stop erosion and create habitats for wildlife (never mind the less tangible benefits, like the aesthetics and enjoyment we get). So more plants seems like an all around good thing. Grow more plants and you’re doing more good for the environment, theoretically.

I also theorized that the more you grow, the better. The larger the surface area of the leaf the more it can do to clean the air. So a tree is going to have a bigger impact than a patch of grass. A shrubbery might have less impact than a tree, but it’s going to do more than the grass it replaces. And a pot of flowers is doing more than bare concrete. We may be talking about minute amounts, but it’s still something.

So I’ve decided I want to start growing more stuff. Which is kind of funny for anyone who knows me. I have the opposite of a green thumb. Thankfully I’m approaching this with the idea that anything is better than nothing. So even if I plant a few pots and they die off in a month or two, that’s better than nothing. I don’t know if we’ll actually plant a tree (my yard is pretty small), but there are plenty of spaces where a small bush or even a small plant might do more good than some grass (or creeping charlie, as it is). We have plenty of concrete and deck space that we can reclaim with a potted plant, adding more green area and doing more good.

To start this little experiment I got a rain barrel and started a compost bin. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, but it always seemed silly when we didn’t do any gardening of any kind. Now we’ll have a purpose for the compost and stored rain water, and hopefully that will encourage more planting and green growth.

I don’t know what will come of this little experiment. Maybe it’s silly. Maybe I’ll get bored with it. But I kind of like the idea that my yard could be doing more to help the environment. It’s one thing to minimize impact by recycling or using less. But it’s another thing to be actively improving things.

5.4 Acres Per Person

So I’ve been thinking about the whole 5.4 acres per person thing (and not 72 square feet). Strangely enough, I find population density fascinating. Now that we’ve done the math right, I wonder what that means. Is 5.4 acres enough for a person to live on?

Clearly that’s a lot of space, but it starts to feel smaller when you consider things like growing food, dealing with waste, generating power, etc. One person said that’s comparable to four football fields.

It all leads to the question what is the carrying capacity of the planet? How many people can the planet sustain? Some people think we’ve already passed that number (which, if true, would raise all sorts of scary ethical questions and push us into eerie sci-fi territory). I don’t know what that number would be, but it would surely involve plenty of math for me to screw up. Plus all sorts of variables and intricacies that gets pretty darn complicated.

While I like pondering some of those unsolvable questions, what it really comes down to for me is what are you doing with your 5.4 acres? Are you living in such a way that you’re burning up resources and space and time? Or are you conserving what you can in order to save some for the other 6,769,999,999 people on this planet (not to mention the generations to come)?

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72 Square Feet Per Person

Redacted: This post is withdrawn because I can’t do math. It’s not 72 square feet per person, it’s more like 236,806 square feet per person. Doh! I made a silly conversion error, effectively assuming 1 square yard would equal three square feet, since 1 yard equals three feet. Of course 1 square yard is actually 9 square feet. And I made that error twice. Doh indeed.

Anyway, 236,806 square feet per person. That’s about 5.4 acres (again, if I did my math right), but being a city boy I have no concept for the size of an acre. As a commenter pointed out, agriculture and uninhabitable land probably changes that number quite a bit. But it doesn’t change the fact that I was wrong.

I think my point still makes sense (to whom much is given, much is required), but the math totally sucks. This is why my dad and brother are engineers, while I majored in writing and art.

Redacted. (But we’ll keep the original post after the jump as an object lesson to less than eager math students.)

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