Being Carbon Neutral or Carbon Negative : Leaving the earth in a better state than when we were born
[sorry that the links don't work anymore]
I believe that it is possible to live a free life on earth without normal retirement funding. Let's share here to make this a reality.
- My Philosophy
- Africa has the answers
- Defining retirement and finding the money
- Start your journey to Free Life on Earth and a Negative Carbon Footprint
- What's R100 Billion anyway?
- What could one do with R30 billion?
- That someone is you. Now. Today.
- Our South African Constitution protects us and our planet:
This is my Rosh Hashanah and Eid Mubarak essay written for the Jewish New Year on the evening of Wednesday 8th September 2010 and the end of Ramadan around the same time. It deals with my philosophy and shows how we can live in this life, not be apathetic, reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our cost of living for ourselves and this earth and think differently. Enjoy. I have put bits in bold and italics in case you don't want to read everything. I have also used highlighting for emphasis. The order of importance is yellow, green and purple.
In 1999, after visiting one of our retirement companies and seeing a 3 story marble waterfall in their head-office I cancelled all my retirement funds. My financial advisor thought I was nuts. I work for myself so I didn't have to buy into the company retirement fund and it was easy to make my policies "paid up", ie I'll get the funds in them one day when I "retire". Although retirement is an elusive term and the goal posts are constantly changing.
I didn't mind that their CEO drove a big car or lived in a fancy house. But I minded that my money was being spent on frivolous items.
I also already knew that every Rand I invest in myself and my business gets returned to me ten times so investing in myself is a good investment.
Having 10% to 20% of one's funds available means that one can pay off one's house quicker, reduce overdrafts, pay off debt and make one's own investments; but one has to be strict on oneself and not "blow" the money away in the wind. One can also use the money to invest in energy efficient products such as fridges which cost $1000 instead of $300, but which use a quarter of the electricity; or solar water heaters or photovoltaic systems or electricity meters that help us reduce our electricity.
And so over a number of years, I delved more and more into "healing." I became a Reiki Master, studied aromatherapy and crystal healing, took up African Jembe Drumming and became a Drum Circle Facilitator, studied the Bible and Kabbalah, the Good News Bible and Part of the Koran, wrote a book called The Bible as an Enlightenment Toolkit, spent time thinking and chatting to my friends, didn't watch any soccer or rugby except for the finals, watch Wimbledon and the World Cup and The Olympic Games, only spend about an hour a week watching TV, set up Google Alerts to alert me to things I am interested in, for example people writing about me or my company or my products or my competitors, started studying Hebrew, became a reborn Jew and a took refuge to become a Buddhist (a JuBu), started studying to become a Bodhisattva, spent time in my Residents Association and became its chairman for a few years, joined my local Ward Forum so that I can interact with government directly, spoke in parliament at the Climate Change Hearings, became a renewable energy expert (and an Energy Expert (mindmap)), went to three Renewable Energy conferences in the USA, did a one week Grid Tied Photovoltaic course in the USA, wrote the NABCEP North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Exam and passed it, Chaired an Energy Efficiency Conference in Joburg in April 2010, spent 8 hours a day on Facebook for 2 weeks and sold electricity meters, created an on-line shop, became a Cloud Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) implementation expert, got interviewed on the radio and for newspapers, wrote to newspaper editors, wrote to our mayor, to the speaker of our parliament, to our Western Cape premier, and even to our President Jacob Zuma, spent more time thinking, installed a renewable energy system at my house with 1.2 KW of photovoltaic panels and a 1KW wind turbine and 400 Amp Hours of battery backup and an inverter-charger, sold a 1.6KW photovoltaic system to a Veldschool (field school) in the Karoo, did lots of Delphi and Oracle programming, unprogrammed people by healing them, counseled people with regard to personal problems, got a Level 4 BEE Certificate, went to breakfasts with my friends, read The Four Agreements and Don Miguel Ruiz's other books, got clinically depressed last year because of the lack of a renewable energy implementation in South Africa and due to my R500,000 investment (R2.5 million in total including my time over the past 2.5 years), but brought myself out of it without drugs and with lots of help from friends, psychologists, a holistic psychiatrist who prescribed Omega 3 oil and a physiological (not a pharmacological) dose of Lithium because our soils are depleted of lithium, Tai Chi which saved me, God who saved me, my wife who saved me and makes me feel safe in the world, my cat who loves me and comes and lies on my desk between me and my keyboard and even does some writing which I don't understand (I need to learn cat language), my friendships which saved me, started a synagogue, become a Rebbe, not an ordained Rabbi, in my local synagogue and community, led services, wrote commentaries on the Bible, ran Shiurs (lessons on the Bible), decided that I didn't want to become a Rabbi because I didn't want to be stuck with dogma, considered Kashrut but ruled it out because there are no ethics in Kashrut as it is currently practiced, looked at Jewish vegetarianism and decided that eating meat on special occasions was enough, learnt that 1 hectare of soy beans can feed 60 people, but the same soy beans fed to cows and the meat fed to people can only feed 2 people, made friends with people from all over the world including a Taiwanese family who love me and who I love, and learnt that long sentences are not really a problem because Charles Dickens wrote very long sentences.
And all this because I had and have lots of time to spend doing the things I want to do and because I don't waste money buying cars and therefore working for Mercedes Benz or Renault. If you are paying R5,000 on car repayments, you need to work a few days a month to pay for this. Or someone who works for you needs to work for this. What's the point?
And all this because I believe in Life Before Death and that Apathetic people are almost dead and because I believe in Free Life On Earth. And because I can work 20% less than other people because I don't need retirement funding. And as my debts get paid off I can work less and less or fewer and fewer hours.
I didn't buy a new car when my accountant said I should! She said that I could save tax by buying a new car. I said that although I would save $100 a month on tax, I would spend $350 a month on repayments!
3. My Philosophy
Let's look at my philosophy that underpins doing all this stuff:
1. I focus or meditate on what I want to achieve. My definition of meditation is Focussing in a world of distraction. The link mentions Jewish Meditation. That is just meditation using the Bible as a reference point;
2. I'm alive. I believe in Life Before Death. When someone asks me if there's life after death, I say they are asking the wrong question. Is there life before death? I believe in Karma, ie what we don't fix for ourselves in this life will recur in the next life and if we fix everything in our lives we will achieve Nirvana and sit with God at His table. Note that as soon as we start fixing things, God invites us to His table, so no need to wait for the Messiah. He's already here and he's inside you. And if you're a woman, She's already here and She's inside you. As it happens, Earth is the feminine aspect of God, called the Shechinah. So there's no problem with God being male and female especially considering that God was and is first;
3. When I pray and say the words "resuscitate the dead" or "quicken the dead" or "revive the dead" I don't think about people who aren't here anymore. I think about the "dead people" who I see in Synagogue next to me or walking in the streets or watching TV. Most of these dead people are slaves. They wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, go to work, get paid, go shopping, make supper in the microwave, watch TV, have sex, sleep, and then do the same thing the next day. This isn't LIFE. This is death;
4. I thought long and hard about Apathy and Apathetic people especially considering that I am on and have been on various committees and I constantly get told I am wasting my time. Time is an elusive thing. We can never get it back. If we lose money we can get it back. If we have a fight with our wife or friend, we can fix it. But we can never get time back. It's gone. So I invented the following expression: "Apathetic People can do anything they like because they are waiting for the Messiah to come and SAVE them!" But guess what the Messiah is already here. He or She is inside each of us. But He is quiet. He doesn't need to say "you're perfect" so what we hear is the little voice telling us that we're imperfect and as soon as we're imperfect we have to go shopping to become perfect. But if you tell this Tree of Knowledge to take a holiday for 10 minutes and ask the Tree of Life, am I beautiful?, or is this colour right on me?, or am I the right weight?, or does my husband love me?, or am I ok?, it will say "you're perfect" to all these things. The tree of life doesn't speak to us unless we ask it for advice. The tree of life is the messiah living in each of us. Just because we're perfect doesn't mean we can stop becoming more perfect. We have to be perfect and then we have wake up and not be dead and then we have to not be apathetic;
5. I consider the Biblical implications of things in a book written by God through man, Moses (MoSheH) is HaSheM (the Name) backwards. So I believe that Moses is God just as I believe that Yitro is God and Jesus is God and I am God and you are God. Have you ever seen a person kill someone or knock them over or cause pain or fix suffering. I'm sure you have. We are all gods or at least act like gods. Just one hair less than God. And helping God to make creation a little bit better each day;
6. I consider the special messages in our oldest Book, a summary of thoughts and ideas, good and bad, positive and negative over the millennia. It is known as the Bible and it has been misused by people who seek power rather than The Messiah. Here are two special messages (marked i and ii):
1. i) Genesis Chapter 1 vs 28 says: "Go forth and multiply." We all know this. Our priests have told us. Our Rabbis have told us. Our Imams have told us. But how many of you have opened Genesis and read the next part of this sentence? Do it now and then continue reading. It says "Go forth and multiply, and replenish the earth." This is a Biblical injunction (directive) telling us that we can have children and we can have businesses and we can drive cars and we can multiply, but we must also replenish the earth. We cannot simply take and not put back. Ke Nako. The time is right to put back. It's time to fix things. It's time to follow Biblical commands, i.e. wisdom from the ancients, who tell us to Go forth and multiply, be creative, build stadiums, have fun, but at the same time Replenish The Earth. Practice birth control (if necessary, i.e. if the world can't carry (sustain) us). Practice free life on earth. Reduce our cost of living for ourselves and on our earth.
2. Carrying Capacity: South Africa has 3% arable land. It is only enough to feed 35 million people using our current farming style. But we have 49 million people. Where are 14 million people getting food? They aren't! Or they are using earth's saved resources for short term gain, but long term they and we will all die - a real death. The final death and no return because there won't be an earth to return to. The Messiah won't be here and He or She won't come because we haven't replenished the earth. If we change our farming style and eat less meat and less chicken and less fish and fewer goats
and fewer sheep and fewer snakes and fewer rhinos, and more fruit and more vegetables and more sprouts, we will create more nutritious soil and we won't need to take supplements and we will be free. Looking at the Land like this is called the Carrying Capacity of the Land and is something I studied on a recent course I did called "Ecovillages and Sustainable Design." Note that the 14 million people who are starving include children and scholars. Children and scholars cannot study if they are hungry and malnourished!
3. I believe (Ani Maamin) with perfect faith that God puts us here to see if we can all work together. It doesn't mean we have to think the same way or believe the same things. It just means we must respect each other and respect our rights. The right to life means the responsibility not to kill. The right to an education means the responsibility to study. The right to a national health system means the responsibility to be healthy (this is why Discovery Health gives people a discount for going to Gym and keeping fit).
4. I believe with perfect faith that we have been here before and that every 12 thousand years (read Fingerprints of the Gods) God gives us an opportunity to bring the Messiah, i.e. the Messiah in each of us, i.e. the Messianic age. The age that as soon as we all work together and share together we will suddenly move forward: dramatically. This is already happening with the internet age and with the age of Exponential growth. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJKoIBKx_UI. If you are in a hurry or can't read, watch from the 4th minute onwards.
5. ii) The Bible says that the sins of the parents will be imposed on the children to the Forth Generation. Deuteronomy 5:9. From an environmental point of view this means that we have to consider the forth generation, i.e. people living 100 years after today, in every decision we make! If we start an open cast mine to mine coal and the mine will last 10 years, but pollute the water systems for 500 years afterwards, are we considering the forth generation? If we destroy Alaska for 8 months of world wide oil supply and don't have ice for a thousand years, we have a problem. We cannot simply take. We must put back.
I have calculated that the average South African uses three trees worth of wood each year just for heating and cooking. This means that if you are 46 years old, you need to plant 138 trees just to catch up with the carbon footprint you have already left. Note that it takes 7 years for a pine tree to mature. So we can create renewable forests which absorb carbon from the atmosphere and then we can burn them and continuously replant and be carbon negative!
4. Africa has the answers
The right to housing means the responsibility to build solar houses, i.e. houses that are efficient and don't use unnecessary resources. And my friends, Africa has the answers. Africans have the answers. Indians have the answers. Aborigines have the answers. Tibetans have the answers. The Nepalese have the answers. Galileo and Einstein and The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela have the answers. If only we would hear, listen and understand. If only we wouldn't be so hungry. And if only Africans (and I consider myself to be an African as I'm not a European) would build using their own techniques and live using their own techniques (ubuntu / sharing / respect for each other and the environment) and if only we would share the best of our worlds instead of trying to be like each other, our world would be a better place.
Back to meditation for a second. "Everybody's speakin', yet nobody talks" and "live in the
moment" by Scatman.
5. Defining retirement and finding the money
So let's delve into Free Life On Earth.
Hey, first lets define retirement. Retirement is living without worry. i.e. Retirement is living without worry about the future. i.e. we can all be soothsayers assuming that we don't need to worry about our incomes. You don't need R5 million in the bank to retire. You only need to earn the income you have right now without working or you need to have lower costs, much lower costs, perhaps 5% lower costs annually for the next 20 years.
Suppose that the cost of living in life is truly a Bell Curve or Normal Distribution. If we start working at 20, then the curve should peak at 40 and then it should reduce so that by 60 we have a close to zero cost of living. Note that from 20 to 30 our incomes usually increase faster than our expenses, but if we have a family and buy a house then in our thirties our expenses increase faster than our incomes. If we use the 20% per annum for our retirement funding in buying energy efficient products and electrical cars, and such like and then when we are 30, if we build a solar house out of mud bricks and straw bales and thatch in the African style, ref Malcolm Worby and Dieter Holm, then when we get to 40 everything will be paid off including the renewable energy systems we put on the house when we built it and our costs will plummet whilst our incomes keep going up.
We are continuously told that we have to start retirement funding when we are 20 because of the cumulative interest accumulation effect. But if we have a life where at 40 our expenses start reducing at 5% compound per annum and if we are still getting 10% salary increases and if we start with an income of R20,000 per month and expenses of R20,000 per month then the following happens:
Year 1: Income R22,000; Costs R19,000. Saved R3,000 per month = R36,000 per annum, for "pension."
Year 2: Income R24,200; Costs R18,050. Saved R6,150 per month = R73,800 per annum, for "pension." + R36,000 from year 1;
Year 3: Income R26,620; Costs R17,147. Saved R9,473 per month = R113,676 for "pension." + R109,800 from years 1 and 2.
So after three years we already have R223,476 in our savings account for the rainy day or the just in case day.
An interesting thing then happens. We can start canceling our insurance policies because we can self insure. Note that during this whole process our medical bills will decrease dramatically as well because we will be more healthy.
We will have Free Life On Earth.
If you feel like a break, watch Scatman's World.
6. Start your journey to Free Life on Earth and a Negative Carbon Footprint
If you want to start your journey today, do the following:
1. find a way to get everyone to eat 1kg less meat in the next year. If every South African eats one kg less meat (8 hamburgers or 4 steaks), we will need 213,044 fewer cows. These cows will need 213,044 * 230 kg * 7.5 lites of diesel less each. They will need less rainforests to be cut down. They will need less water. More land will be available. There will be less methane pollution. And the remaining cows will have more space and be more organic and more natural and the meat will taste nicer and be more energetic.
2. buy an Electricity meter so that you can understand and reduce your energy consumption. This will also help me spend more time writing to parliamentarians, getting our voices heard, talking in parliament, the radio, getting on my soap box, looking after your interests, being on the ward forum, being on the residents association, doing research, and helping to make the world a happier place with a lower cost of living.
3. take all your packaging back to your supplier - or allow the "trolley people" to take it and recycle it on garbage day. The trolley people do such an incredible job for us. Treat them with respect. Please don't put it in the bin.
4. recycle all your leaves. This is called composting. Use your old 20kg dog food bags for this purpose. Leave the bags in a sunny part of the garden, wet the leaves once a week and move the leaves around in the bag. Within 3 to 6 months you will have beautiful compost which would have cost you 2 minutes a week and you wouldn't have had to pay someone to take the garden refuse away and the buy compost a few months later.
5. get together with 5 neighbours and buy a worm farm. Put all your non-animal organic waste into the worm farm and let the worms make you nutrient rich worm tea which you can use as fertiliser in your garden.
6. buy a seed sprouting system and sprout your own seeds. Mung beans take 3 to 4 days to sprout. You will then eat "alive" or "living" food which has 20% protein; has the vitamin B complex so that you don't have to take the vitamin B complex pills anymore and has fibre; And this is just one of hundreds of seeds that you can sprout. I estimate that we can reduce our food and health bill by 25% by eating sprouts.
7. buy a juice extractor and juice 250 grams of carrots a day and 250 grams of celery per day. Mix and drink for a drink that will make you feel invigorated and is great brain food and will help you sleep better.
8. buy a solar water heater. The typical house spends between a third and half its electricity cost on water heating. Buying a solar water heater is 4 times more efficient than using electricity to heat water. Oversize the system so that you have hot water on the rainy days and for when guests come to stay and just in case you sell the house one day to someone who has a bigger family than you.
9. buy a R3000 renewable energy kit that will run some lights and charge your cell phone. Contribute to the only industry world wide which is growing at 35% compound (exponentially) per annum.
10. The most difficult one:
7. What's R100 Billion anyway?
Take responsibility for the R100 billion that our government is spending on a 5GW power station. 100,000,000,000 or 10^11 in mathematical notation or 1 with 11 zeros after it is the distance to the moon 3 times in centimeters. 5 GW is 5 million Watts. The cost per watt is R20 per watt. And this excludes a 30 ton coal truck arriving at the power station every 15 seconds to supply coal. 100 billion is 10 million x R10,000 solar water heaters! 10,000,000 multiplied by 10,000 is 100,000,000,000.
A 5 GW power station takes 8,000 people 8 years to build.
We could install 6,250 solar water heaters every single day for 8 years to get to R100 billion!
Assuming 3 people to install the solar panels, plus electricians, plumbers, inspectors, designers, maintainers, factories, call centres, supply chains, I estimate that within 2 years, 35,000 people could be working in this industry. 150,000 people would be fed, clothed and not be in the dole queues anymore.
And best of all these 10 million solar water heaters would replace 20 GW of electrical energy. i.e. it takes 4 times more electricity to heat water by 1 degree than it does sunlight.
Or we could install 5 million solar water heaters and have the R7 billion we need to pay the teachers and the other public servants (who are currently on strike).
8. What could one do with R30 billion?
And we would use the balance of say R30 billion (after further teacher and other low paid government employee salary increases) to:
- have 60% rebates on labour costs for the first two years for the solar water heater industry.
- This isn't "far out". The government did it when they started Atlantis 36 years ago.
- have zero VAT on solar panels and renewable energy equipment generally.
- give people 30% rebates on their photovoltaic systems.
- allow companies a 100% capital allowance (tax deduction) in their first year that they invest in renewable energy factories.
- pay the teachers another R7 billion so that they earn real salaries and educate our children and our students properly.
- give tax incentives to private people who invest in renewable energy allowing them to invest before tax.
- allow grid connection systems to feed into the grid using net-metering. We don't want feed in tariffs for private houses. We only need net-metering to be cost effective.
If you think this is all way out, then consider the R2.69 billion cash grant that the ANC is giving to car manufacturers in the next decade. Why do we need this? We already have cars.
The car industry isn't growing at 35% per annum world wide. But the renewable energy industry is - and South African citizens are being left behind. If this was for electric cars, I might be happy, but its not for electric cars and I'm not happy about it. But I'm not sitting back and saying "there's nothing I can do." I can and will and am doing something. Take a look at 18% growth forecasted for vehicle electrification.
And remember, with using currently technology, i.e. coal and nuclear, South Africa needs 80 GW of power stations by 2030, and guess what, by 2025, every single one of our existing power stations will
have reached "end of life" which means that using conventional processes we need 16 new R100 billion power stations over the next 20 years. Where are we going to find R1.6 trillion? R1,600 Billion. R1,600,000 Million. R1,600,000,000,000!
And if we have a solar thermal (hot water) industry we can heat and cool air using the sun and we can heat and cool water using the sun. Solar Chilling. Solar Airconditioning.
And we only need welders and braisers and technicians for this industry. We don't need people with degrees. We need people who have a vision. We need leaders. We need someone to get the ball rolling.
9. That someone is you. Now. Today.
I have written to Dan Plato; I have written to Helen Zille; I have written to Jacob Zuma; I have written to Tony Ehrenreich; I have spoken to Sarah Ward; I have spoken to Anton Bredell; I have spoken in Parliament. And little is happening. Email addresses can be found here.
You voted. This is a democracy. You pay taxes. Take responsibility.
10. Our South African Constitution protects us and our planet:
Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
Be alive. Be awake. Don't be apathetic. Make our Constitution protect us. When the government and business don't follow the constitution seek help from the Centre for Environmental Rights for example and write, write, write, and talk, talk, talk.
Remember the Shma (the meditational prayer that Jews say 3 or more times per day): "Speak these words in your home and on your way and between your gates." "These words" are Protect the environment ("and replenish the earth") and consider the next 100 years ("4 generations").
And live a Free Life on Earth without a cost of living for yourself or for our planet.
Shanah Tova; Eid Mubarak; Peace and Blessings be with you my friends; May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for an incredible 5771 or 2010/2011.
Ke Nako (the time is right for action),
David, a King of the tribe of Levi
Benevolent King of the My Power Station Realm.
PS: Why should we use the words CEO, Owner, Manager, etc, to describe ourselves? None of these words describe me. I'm using the word King, not for aggrandisement or arrogance, but because for me King denotes leadership, someone you can come to who can help you find answers and someone who is thinking 100 years ahead, not just about tomorrow.