Do our DVDs Qualify as Sustainable?

100318_edit-bay.jpgWe received a letter inviting us to donate items, as we’ve done for years, for the annual fundraising auction for the South Yuba River Citizen’s League. SYRCL has achieved state Wild and Scenic designation of eight miles of our cherished river and are working to return the salmon to our watershed. Here’s my reply:

Hi friends,

Glad to see SYRCL’s emphasis on requesting auction items which are sustainably produced, promote sustainable lifestyles, or are useful for purchasing food and other consumables. [my paraphrase and emphasis.]

We’ll donate three DVDs on sustainable topics (Best of Peak Moment shows promoting permaculture, backyard gardens, and local businesses) plus Richard Heinberg’s local presentation on Peak Oil. Plus a DVD of the documentary “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire” which lays out quite clearly how unsustainable industrial civilization really is.

Do our DVDs qualify as sustainable?

The DVDs will be packaged in totally unsustainable plastic cases and recorded on unsustainable and un-reusable DVD stock made of plastic and metals, all manufactured in China using non-renewable electricity for production, and non-renewable oil for transport to the U.S. Their printed covers and labels will utilize an inkjet printer and inks that are similarly unsustainable.

The videos were captured on video tape (plastics) using a video camera (glass, metals, plastics) and associated equipment (light bulbs, tripods, fabric, power cords and cables, microphones with (rechargeable!) batteries — all un-reusable except the latter.

Those videos were edited on laptop computer  They were viewed on a monitor and duplicated on equipment equally unsustainable.

All of this equipment requires local electricity. Since we’re off-grid, that electricity is generated from somewhat more sustainable sources than grid electricity. However, like the above equipment, the solar panels are built of non-renewable, non-recyclable materials. That electricity is stored in toxic lead-acid batteries whose metal and chemicals can be recycled but probably not the heavy (plastic?) case.

The auction winners will be play those DVDs on DVD players, sound systems and viewed on screens, all with totally unsustainable characteristics like the other high-tech equipment above.

Those players, and the manufacture of every product listed, will use electricity primarily from non-renewable sources (natural gas, coal, uranium). Those electricity-generating facilities required very high levels of petroleum for mining, refining, transport, construction.

Some electricity will be generated from somewhat-renewable physical sources — hydropower dams. These dams damage ecosystems, including native fish populations like the salmon and sturgeon you’re trying to protect on our own precious Yuba River.

Most of the objects listed above cannot be re-used or recycled. Their transport requires non-renewable oil, which increasingly takes a great deal of water to extract.  Most will become toxic waste in our landfills, leaching toxic materials into watersheds and oceans for millenia, disrupting and destroying terrestrial and marine ecosystems and all who live in them, including us!

Nonetheless, we feel good about our efforts via Peak Moment TV to encourage that move towards sustainability. Most of our videos are seen online (requiring huge server farms sucking a lot of electricity, but not all the toxic packaging). And we are documenting people trying to live more sustainably.

Bottom line: It appears that just about anything produced by industrial civilization is unsustainable, ultimately. This civilization is killing the planet.

By contrast, the local Tsi-Akim tribe of Maidu people arguably are the only ones in our community who can show us what living sustainably is truly like, based on how they did 150 years ago and for thousands of years before that.

Okay, off the soapbox, or at least off the roll I just got on!

I’ll bring the DVDs into the office in a few weeks.
Yours for the planet ~
Janaia & Robyn


  1. Yvonne Leever says:

    I’ve just heard about the “One-Half Movement”–not sure if that is the correct name, but the idea is doing, using, consuming, etc. one-half of what we usually consume or use. Quite a concept and a challenge for me.

  2. Christiane Amanpour interviewed the Annie Leonard (of The Story of Stuff Fame) and was hit up with a similar critique. Her response was that it is more important that we appreciate the stuff we have rather than to just reject modernity. This is because right now we “churn” through stuff. If we actually only bought the things we needed, and we held onto them instead of treating everything as disposable, it would be a big improvement.

    The interview

    On Colbert:

  3. Mary Nelson says:

    The irony of our having to use the tools of industrial civilization (unsustainable) in order to try to move toward a culture that is sustainable and that can live with Life on Earth instead of against it!

    I guess it’s up to each one of us to try to achieve a balance as we move forward.

    The continuing fallout from our assault will keep pushing us away from our unsustainable lifestyles and pulling us towards, well, the world in which we are going to be living, sustainably or not at all, sooner or later.

Speak Your Mind