The boat is a closed system. It’s not on the grid, or plumbed in to the water and sewerage systems, anything that is going to be in the boat either has to be generated in situ (electricity) or physically brought in (water, fuel, food etc). There are of course some obvious downsides to this – especially when you consider having to sort out your poo… but on the plus side having the means to generate your own energy and source everything you need creates independence. If the grid falls over, I’ll still have lights.
One of the things this makes me very aware of, is the degree to which everything entering the boat comes from somewhere, and everything leaving it goes to somewhere. I have a much more direct sense than most people of how much lavatorial waste we generate in a week, and that it goes somewhere else and needs sorting out. It doesn’t magically flush away never to be thought of again. It goes somewhere. Something has to happen to it.
There are no bin collections for us. Consequently we cycle the recyclables a few miles to drop them off, and there are places we can appropriately dispose of the other things. Big bins all boaters use. And where do those go? Away… to that never never land where all the rubbish goes. Looking at those big bins every week, full of things other people couldn’t be bothered to recycle, and all the useless packaging and waste does not make me comfortable.
There are features of modern life that make it very easy to ascribe things to ‘away’. Water comes from ‘away’ and when you’re done with it, it goes away. Petrol comes out of a nozzle, the actual source rendered invisible. Rubbish disappears in a lorry every week or two. We insulate ourselves from most of the process, the whole structure of modern living encourages us not to see our own place in the many cycles we interact with. This is not helping.
The earth is a closed system. Everything we have is here. There is no off-world grid to turn to if we mess up. No method of being plumbed in to intergalactic water and sewerage systems. Anything that is going to be used on the earth has to be generated in situ. Fantasies about getting it all from space are not going to solve anything any time soon. There are of course some obvious downsides to this – especially when you consider having to sort out your poo… but on the plus side having the means to generate your own energy and source everything you need creates independence. Or it would, if we weren’t being collectively insane.