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We’re in race to save the planet and we need to keep moving the goal line forward

It is interesting how some words have more than one meaning. Race is one of them. It can be a form of competition where the fastest one wins, but it can also be a group of people, such as the human race.

The irony of this juxtaposition is that the human race is in a race against itself. Even though we are the only competitor, there is no guarantee we will win.

In fact, one could say that in this sustainability race, the only way to win is to never quite finish, since as long as we can keep working to heal our world and live more responsibly, the human race is still around.

In that case, I think the best way to “win” the never-ending sustainability race is to move as rapidly as possible toward the finish line, but then keep moving the line forward so the task of living lighter on the planet is never quite complete.

Only humans could create a scenario where we are actually competing against ourselves in a do-or-die scenario.

On one hand, we are doing great harm to our world, endangering not only our survival, but that of millions of other species as well. We know the dangers of burning fossil fuels, using nuclear technology, and myriad other aspects of our culture that threaten our long-term future.

On the other hand, at least some of us respond by changing our lives, our technology and our priorities to ameliorate these threats.

Which side is winning? No one knows for sure.

When one looks at the scientific facts regarding climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution and other major issues, it is difficult to come to any positive conclusion.

In fact, some become overwhelmed and feel like just giving up the race. Why bother? It’s hopeless, right?


Our culture thrives on a good game. We love competition! We love it when against tremendous odds, the underdog rises to the challenge with hard work, skill and solid determination.

Isn’t that who we are?

In this challenge, each of us plays a role. In addition to our wits, we have our homes, our vehicles, our purchasing and eating habits, and our professions. These are the blocks we can use to build a better world and move us quickly toward the finish line of the sustainability race.

Every single one of us makes a difference and we cannot afford to wait for anyone else to get the job done.

Consider these facts:

There is more than 9,400 megawatts of solar energy production in the United States, with almost 1,000 megawatts built in the second quarter of 2013 alone.

The cost of solar energy systems has plummeted while growth is skyrocketing. This year a new solar installation will be completed every four minutes.

The second largest electricity producer in Germany recently announced the decision to withdraw 3.1 gigawatts (that’s 3,100 megawatts) of fossil fuel generating capacity from the market.

The growing amount of renewable energy is dropping wholesale prices to the point where fossil fuel plants are no longer competitive.

Clean energy is gaining major momentum. In any honest market, it is the hands-down winner.

Energy efficient, net-zero energy homes that produce as much energy as they use over the course of a year are the new normal.

Abundant case studies prove that the cost of ownership of net-zero energy homes saves money from Day One. They are often more comfortable as well.

Electric car sales are booming and a good percentage of them are being charged with rooftop solar panels. Believe me, it works.

The decarbonization of America is underway but there is a long way to go. Remember, we’re in a race!

Every choice we make makes us more competitive, one way or the other. Choose wisely. Be a responsible citizen.

Reject the manufactured role of “consumer” and step up with the best you have to offer. We are all players on this team. There is no other option than to participate in the Human Race.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, visit www.greendream.biz.

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