Saturday, August 15, 2009

Setting the Context

I am only promising weekly posts. However, It seemed to make sense for me (and for you dear reader) to lay out some of the background information. There are specific challenges and advantages to my current living arrangement that will naturally dictate my approach...

1) I Live in a Parsonage This means that I am a renter. Yes, I am also the "Parson". This is a term that means "person" and points specifically to those clergy people who live in parsonages. Those who do not aren't really parsons (sorry folks!). A certain amount of money is taken out of my paycheck every month for the upkeep and maintenance of the building. This amount is assessed at market rental value. This means that I am not really able (without appealing to at least one committee) to make substantial changes to the building or its grounds.

That having been said, I have put in a small garden (more educational that productive) and the windows have all recently been replaced.

2) I live where I work This is probably not a shock to most. However, not all parsonages are close to the church as there is a real difference in the amount of privacy one can expect in my situation. On the other hand. It means that I can walk to church. I can also walk to the hospital and to my son's elementary school without any trouble. My wife (in a major move and no doubt a topic for a later post) will be working from home starting on Monday. This is a change for her as she has been driving about 40 minutes each way to another part of Burbania.

3) The parsonage is not downtown The neighborhood, in part because of its relatively bucolic atmosphere (that is, generally larger houses and lawns) is locally considered a rather desirable place to live. However, this very attitude may need to change if the suburbs are going to be sustainable. After all, this separation means that I do, in fact, have to drive sometimes. If I want to eat I have to get to the grocery store, for example. Also I must drive to my children's after school activities (a de rigeur part of suburban life) and to my oldest son's middle school on the other side of town. As it turns out, I am in the car a little bit almost every day. Most of my neighbors are in the car for even longer.

4) We do not have unlimited resources I say this with the full knowledge that something like 85%of all the people in the world would see my lifestyle (a family of five living in a two-bedroom house in a crime-free area) as hopelessly unattainable. It is pretty here. We have good school and (thanks to our industrialized food system) a ridiculously large number of things to eat just a few miles away.

However, I am a minister and my wife is a social worker. We cannot afford to purchase a house in the town we live in and we must find ways to live off what we make in an expensive part of the world. Many of the steps toward sustainability, in fact (inlcuding my wife working from home) are motivated by the need to live within our means. This simple goal is an important element of the sustainable life. Then, perhaps, we will be taking less from others and giving more back.

This is the basic context. Now on to figuring out actions and goals...

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