As much as we would like to live in total ecological harmony with the world, we cannot. There is too much we cannot live without. In an article from Architecture Minnesota an environmentally active couple tell about their decision to build a simple house to fit in perfectly with the environment.
Their house plans included super-insulation, fluorescent light bulbs, high-efficiency appliances and solar heating. No virgin lumber would be used (particularly from the Pacific Northwest), and reclaimed lumber would be used wherever possible. The lot needed to accommodate a house with an elongated south side for solar heating. They wanted the lot to have a hill so part of the house would be below ground. It also had to be within walking distance of their jobs, church and market.
Their first architect developed several (rejected) house plans before he finally told them in exasperation that it was impossible to live out their values. The couple hired another architect, but soon realized they were naïve to think they could construct a home without infringing on the environment.
As they hacked out a rough driveway, tiny creatures such as mice and snakes scattered, displaced from their homes. Bulldozers rolled over prairie wildflowers. Building materials were delivered where it was convenient. The couple was told that wood from the Pacific Northwest would have to be used if they wanted the house to last 200 years, just as the trees had. They eventually conceded.
At the end of the article, the authors justify the house and their concessions by saying that America is too wealthy to be moral. And, because they are steeped in a materialistic society with conventional expectations they built a common house conforming to American standards: five bedrooms, music room, study, etc. Although, they note that they did put money into energy and material conservation.
Any finisher could have told the couple that they could not achieve their ecologically based plans. Not because finishers are immoral, materialistic or particularly wealthy, but because finishers know that if you are going to create, build or manufacture (or even exist), there will be waste and there will be affects. Perhaps these environmentalists should have consulted a finisher; after all, they have been working in harmony with the environment for years.