The Challenges of Aiming High
I wonder; why do we talk about a 'learning curve'? Dont we mean a 'learning hill'? Isnt the process of learning, one that takes us to a higher vantage point? When we embark on something that nobody anywhere near us has tried doing before, then our learning hill has a pretty steep slope. Well that is what our team are experiencing at the moment. We are learning to identify and document elements of the materials we use in our building that, hitherto, people have not needed to bother about.
This week, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the construction team and our LEED/LBC administrator, we avoided using plywood that came from Brazil, when there is plywood from a sustainable source in the US, and screws that came from Taiwan, when, again, there are perfectly good screws made locally.
These two examples show two different elements of what is important and why we are doing this.
- If we continue to cut down trees in rainforests, without replanting like for like, then we will end up without the trees we need and the biodiversity we depend on. The building industry uses vast quantities of timber, much of which is cut down in countries that do not manage their forests.
- The cost of products made in countries with cheaper labor and materials may seem cheap, but that is only because the cost of shipping them is being subsidized. Subsidized not by governments supporting their economies, but by the very planet we live on. If we are going to survive on this planet, then we have to find a way to live sustainably. That necessarily includes using resources in a way that doesnt deplete them. The oil that fuels manufacture and shipping is not priced to include replacement. If it were, which I tell you, it will soon have to be, the cost of shipping would render the screws from Taiwan more expensive, and more reflective of the actual cost. It is time for us to now consider the full cost of human activities. If we wish to pass a livable planet onto our grandchildren, then we have no choice. The price must reflect the true cost.
Yes, it will cost us more to build this house than it would have otherwise, and we are incurring a huge workload to identify and document everything, but others will necessarily follow, and their path up the hill may be steep, but there will at least be a path.
Now dont get me wrong. I am a dedicated supporter of globalization. I am not saying no to global trade. I am saying lets price our goods and services to include the hidden costs, that very soon, will not be hidden any more. That way global trade will be able to survive, and will continue generating the innovation and prosperity we need.
Happily, after hiccups, we have installed a new basement floor and joists to our extension, and the plywood will soon start creating a floor to stand on.