Earth overshoot and the fair

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Earth Overshoot Day 2014 falls sometime during July and August. Between Jan. 1 and that date, Earth’s human population has used all of the resources the Earth can produce in a year and has dumped all of the waste the Earth can process in a year. And five months of drawing down and dumping are still ahead.

During most of human history, humanity lived within its means, not using more than the Earth could produce and not dumping more than the Earth could process. A harmonious balance was maintained. Then, in the early 1970s, human activities shifted the balance.

Now, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 Earths, but we have only one Earth. If the entire human population had a lifestyle similar to that of U.S. citizens, we would need five Earths to support us. Like an overdrawn bank account, our careless spending will empty the coffers. The spree will be over.

Earth Overshoot is one of the reasons Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) established the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 23-24 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Illinois). Using energy efficiency practices and renewable energy rather than fossil fuel is one way we can start to re-balance our system. Leading sustainable lifestyles gets us still closer, encompassing all that we do in our daily lives, including the use of clean energy.

The fair will provide ideas about incorporating renewable energy into daily lives. John Root will present his view on wind power, which includes the history of wind and small wind generators for homeowners. Dave Merrill will discuss real-world payback from PV. He will also hold a special hands-on PV class for those interested in installing their own system. Jim Lamb will present effective payback from solar, conservation and sustainability. He lives what he teaches, paying more for delivery fees than the electricity he uses. John Farrell will encourage his audience to initiate local ownership of renewable energy systems. Bob Croteau will display illustrations of Springfield’s PV array designed to look like a giant sunflower.

Ways to become sustainable will also be shared. Raising chickens and other small animals in urban areas, making our yards more ecologically friendly, using simple tools and leading the simple life, home butchering, raising fish and vegetables in a closed loop, and performing simple crafts are among the topics. Novel ways to prepare and preserve food, including fermentation as well as canning, freezing and drying, will be shared. A plan for creating a county-wide sustainable food system will also be presented.

Transportation changes can also help decrease our overuse of the Earth’s resources and dumping excess waste. The Rock River Times’ “Mr. Green Car” columnist, Allen Penticoff, will tell his audience what life is like with a Chevy Volt. Tom Brunka will share the latest in electric vehicle conversion. Several visitor/volunteers, including Tom Cartwright, will bring their electric vehicles and will be happy to discuss them with people.

Making homes more efficient can also diminish excessive resource use. Lou Host-Jablonski will present plans for proven high-performance natural home design and construction for the Midwest. Doug McWain will describe earth-sheltered homes on a shoestring. The story of renovating a drafty 150-year-old farmhouse to become a soundproof, leak-proof home will be told.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the Aug. 6-12, 2014, issue

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