Many of us have dreamed of living on a sun drenched, white sand tropical island, with coconut palms, warm breezes, and aqua blue water. But think for a minute- what if your dream really came true?
What if you lived on a tiny island that you couldn’t leave? With finite amounts of clean water, fertile land, materials and energy, and limited space to throw things “away”? Far from any other islands, receiving only daily shipments of sunlight?
How do you survive on such a tiny bit of isolated land? What principles for daily living would you adopt to sustain yourself and your community? Well, we all live on a relatively tiny, isolated, limited island an island we can’t leave. We call it Earth, this third rock from the Sun, light-years away from the nearest supply depot!
Here’s an exercise Sara Schley and I created for corporate execs that you can do with family, friends, students, colleagues or by yourself in the cozy confines of your living room. All you need is a pen and pad of paper, and your imagination.
Imagine yourself, on an island of 1000 acres, with a variety of habitats; and that you live there with your family, friends, and extended community, 1000-1200 of you in all. You cannot leave the island, at least not easily, nor for long. The island receives daily sunlight as a renewable energy source, but the materials present like minerals, forests, fish and game, soils and food production, water, are all you have. All materials and food must come from the island, and all waste must remain on the island, forever.
Consider the basic rules of physics and of biology. If you living on this island, maximizing health and prosperity for all, what principles and policies would you adopt, upon which to base the daily routine on your island? One principle might be to protect all water sources and keep them pristine. A policy based on this might be to require all industries to use their outgoing water again and again.
Take some time with a group and do this exercise. What principles do you come up with? If you followed these principles regularly would you be able to sustain yourselves and future generations indefinitely? Are there any you’ve missed? How can you apply these principles in your daily life at home, work, school and play?
After this exercise a “big box” store decided to recycle everything- have waste from each process and product become food for another. A state agency saw that clean water, air, healthy soils and habitats must be preserved at all stages of society and that virtually everyone lived downstream or downwind from discharge pipes or smokestacks.
Whatever principles you develop for your island, reflect on how they play out in our lives and on our home planet. After all, we all live on an island we can’t leave. How can we live to ensure that our home can thrive forever? Figure that out, and then we can all go play on the beach…