This book is about answering a very simple yet profound question:
How can we, as individuals and as a species,
do the things that we need and want to do, on all levels,
in ways that are economically viable and ecologically sustainable?
Put another way, if we are doing things in ways
that damage our planet’s life support system,
how can we do them differently to avoid these problems?
This book is also about critical thinking.
About analyzing the solutions presented in this book and elsewhere
from the perspective of their potential to be truly sustainable.
In other words, if several billion people
use a particular technology or group of technologies,
are the impacts associated with that use
truly eco-nomically sustainable?
As an ecological designer, it is my belief that solar energy,
in its various forms, is the best source of energy available
to meet the world's energy needs.
But from the perspective of eco-nomical sustainability,
not all solar energy collection systems make sense.
Even if a solar collector is extremely efficient
at converting sunlight into work,
its creation, use, and disposal may not represent an ecological plus.
For example, if the collector is made of copper or some other metal,
what kind of damage was caused when that metal was mined and smelted?
What will it cost in time, energy, and money
to repair the damage that was caused?
When the collector was fabricated, what kind of
solders, adhesives, plastics, insulation, etc.,
were used in the process?
What impact does their creation and use have on the environment?
How are the people who work with these materials affected by them?
If their health is affected, how much will it cost
to take care of them?
When the collector is used, what kind of contaminants
might it contribute to the environment?
With a solar waterheater, for example, contaminants can be picked up
by the water that passes through it.
If lead-based solder is used in the collector,
a person taking a shower may be breathing lead laced steam
and bathing in lead contaminated water.
What effects will this have on the bather’s health?
What will these health problems cost the individual and society?