What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

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Friday, 2 May 2008

The Suffering of Change - by Robb

While the Bush Administration has sticky black wet dreams about 30 years worth of oil in the arctic some of us are waking up to some basics. The answer isn't in more new cars that burn more fossil fuel even if more efficient. Einstein said you can't solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.

We can't consume our way out of overconsumption!

We must all simply find ways to consume less, much less, of everything.
I have been lucky for the last 2 years. I have no commute and don't drive. My wife walks to work and I walk everywhere unless we are going on one of our trips around the UK. For that we take our 10 year old diesel van powered by recycled vegetable oil based biodiesel. We could buy a hybrid or even a smart car. Why would we do that? Aside from putting us in debt, a cage we stringently avoid, buying a new vehicle to save carbon emissions is like giving an alcoholic a smaller shot glass. He'll just pour more self destruction. You need to take away the liquor. Cuba didn't respond to their oil crisis by importing or making new more efficient cars, they kept what they had going and drove less, if at all. They are now a model of sustainability.

The emissions involved in mining the metals, creating the plastics and other materials involved in making a new more efficient car, not to mention shipping all that stuff and the final product will take years to offset by the use of that vehicle. People with long commutes need to look at ways to change their lives to accommodate shorter or even better no commutes. Do it now before peak oil forces it later and you will be happier.

Folks here are complaining as gas reaches £5/gallon, that's close to $10/gallon, but always with the caveat, "What are you gonna do, you have to have it" What will it take to convince them that they can change? How do they become Enviro-mental? Research indicates that gloom and doom scarcity language won't work. It must be approached as a positive life enhancing option.

"It may very well be true that our future existence will be much more materially constrained than it is now, the way to 'soft land' there is to give it a positive spin."
(De Young 2001)

My character tends the opposite direction. For instance, I have recently found it revelatory to consider recycling as a failure. Americans, myself among them, have thought for years that recycling would do the trick. Recycling is an indication of a design flaw.

“technological devices and products we use are in themselves potent sources of behavioural control...... Discrete physical properties of technologies and consumer products influence the ways in which they are used.” (Crabb 1992)

These properties have been named affordances.(Norman 1988) Items that should be recycled are actually designed to be thrown away, increasing recycling opportunities does not address the inherent design flaw. Recycling is a failure to reuse which is a failure to reduce. Shouldn’t we encourage citizens to reduce first? Shouldn’t we direct our efforts toward the cessation of the manufacturing of

“countless gadgets and products that have no defensible place in a rational energy efficient society”? (Crabb 1992)

This would address not only the use of resources involved in the personal use of products but in the creation of the products themselves. It is easy to suggest this but how to put it in to practice?

My father always said, "set an example, don't take one." My policy when I think I need a market good is to first try to do without it, borrow it, or make it myself, if that fails then to source it on freecycle, if that fails then to buy it used. For instance, when we need a lampshade in the house, for the lamps I've pulled out of skips, I make it out of old plastic protein powder containers. They are durable, diffuse the light from my CFL's nicely, and come with the product contained. Again, I have to thank my father for that idea, he practiced practicality as long as I can remember.

Change, big change, is thundering down the glacier aimed right at our lifestyles. We can begin the process in advance and thus lessen the crushing consequences of impact or simply stare into the headlights.

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