ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


A memorable paving expert once said, "Blacktop lasts about twenty to thirty years, concrete is forever." Last weekend I was involved in a project in which the truth of this statement was brought home to me immediately and exquisitely. My brother has been working to restore an old Victorian home, adding modern amenities and fixing a series of stupid changes wrought by former owners. For his birthday, I volunteered a weekend to come down and help remove an old concrete stoop. First off, it was poured in place, right up against the wood of the house. At about half the size of a car, it created a dead space behind that had rotted away part of the building. It also made for a cold inaccessible area that could not be insulated, creating a very cold and drafty entrance area inside the back door.

What has this to do with ECO-Tours? Well, if we are to survive, we must finally turn the corner on old-way thinking. Old ways no longer work. The changing of the seasons brings us an annual chance to reassess, prioritize and reflect on what is working and what is not. Concrete seems a good place to start. Centuries have passed since we discovered that the baking of limestone would make it chemically reactive, capable of changing phase from liquid to solid. I'm not sure if it is still true today, but two decades ago, there were some developing countries who were spending over half of their energy budget annually on simply baking limestone.Making cement for concrete.

In the case of my brother's stoop, there was, or seemed to be no good use for the rubble. To remove this liability from along side his home, we spent more than three days, blasting it with both sledge and jack hammers, making chunks small enough to cart away. Their ultimate destination was a landfill and by my closest estimate, we produced several tons of waste destroying the edifice. Concrete may be forever, but only if it is in a place that makes sense and only if it is properly prepped, mixed and finished. (which the stoop was not) There are techniques that could have crushed the rubble to the size of useful aggregate that would reduce the need for hauling it away and reducing the materials that would need to be brought in if we were to pour new concrete, but alas, only large projects benefit from that sort of expensive equipment.

now, there will be a small pocket or layer of stone in the landfill, perhaps forever. The massive amount of energy burned half a century ago, perhaps even longer ago than that, will have been squandered for naught, and the three days of labor required to make things a step closer to right will be left out of history books. The joy that will blossom from the new deck and entryway that will be created in place of the giant concrete stairway will of course be enjoyed, but for generations hence, the effort that brought about that possibility will remain invisible. Rather than feeling ambivalent about this and instead of feeling sad about the waste of time that throwing our bodies and several kilowatts of energy at the monolithic stoop, I feel liberated. Almost like a force of nature, free to express myself through ages.

The ripples and waves that we sent, back into the history of his home, the community and that spot on the Earth will only be eclipsed by the ripples we sent forward into the future. The work we did will stop the back entry to his house from rotting away, perhaps saving tens of thousands of dollars for future residents. The benefit of having a warm entryway, rather than a cold one although subtle has nearly infinite value for those who have to put their shoes on out there in winter, perhaps for hundreds of years into the future. The love we expressed for one another in our cooperative effort has bound us together in ways that are hard to quantify and the joy of releasing the building from the ugly albatross around the back door is priceless.

The costs of expediency are often paid over the course of generations. Developing a time signature of life that honors both past and future may be the only way to preserve the human race from self-destruction. Please take time to think about this before making your New Year's Resolutions.

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