On the outset of creating this blog, I was many steps in front of my current focus. Firstly, I let go of discussions of meaningful efficiency and changes to human activity, simply because I had accepted anthropogenic climate change as a given, which many in the blogging community seemed to disagree with. Then, I found that further steps in the wrong direction, away from even climate change, were required because science itself was in question at large. How far back should one go? Do I need to start with the wonderful, if not bizarre story of margarine – as much at odds with an established industry, the result of science and mocked until times of need?
It’s an inescapable fact that many normalities of modern, western society are detrimental to our species and even more so to biodiversity and the longevity of life as we know and enjoy it. We could be quick to say that life has never been better; life expectancy is on the rise, personal wealth is also much better, on average, than generations before and riding this wave into the new century, we’re watching India and China catch up with the west – improving the lives of millions more. However, in times when “global warming” was little more than an academic hypothesis of interest to few, we were concerned by many other aspects of modern life which have largely been swept under the carpet in the majority of discussions.
Increases in the number of obesity cases, type two diabetes, sedentary lifestyles/workplaces, cases of poor mental health (including mild cases of depression or general discontentment), urban sprawl and processed, calorie-rich, nutrient poor, packaged food to name a few, and species loss and environmental degradation due to changes of landscape use, natural resource mismanagement/over exploitation and pollution to name a few, are excellent examples of changes to the modern world. I mention these examples because they in fact can be addressed while also addressing carbon emissions, peaking oil and road congestion. This is where I began in blogging and hoped to provide room for forward thinking and not a playground to childish conspiracy theories.
If you haven’t yet watched the video I recently posted of James Kunstler’s presentation, I really suggest that you should. James is able to sum up the situation better than I ever could.
We’ve become lazy in every aspect of social activity. So much so that most of us seem to live in the dead suburban landscape – a sea of tiles, one or two storeys high, as far as the eye can see – in houses that are not made to last more than a generation or two, vast stretches away from work and other facilities, all of which entice us to spend most of our lives on our rears – be it sitting in an idle car, waiting for the blasted traffic to move, or crammed into unclean and inefficient public transport, sitting at a desk, trying desperately to make it look as though we’re productive (especially in times of economic down turn when employers seem as psychotic as the Red Queen) or sitting on the couch at the end of all this frustrations, hoping that the brain-numbing nonsense of prime-time television is enough to wash away the bad taste of yet another bad day.
However, is it all truly that bad? For there is chocolate, booze or the entertaining with friends… Yet all of which seem to send you directly to the next size up in clothing (or else face being odd in social events for not indulging or maybe having the endless catch-up; spending hours a week in the gym) and even more depressed as yet another summer rolls around.
I find it difficult to conclude that this was the desired path of the industrial revolution and later advances in urban life.
On top of this is the waste. That a typical family can fill two modern rubbish bins in a week is a statement in itself. Not that is solely their fault – for unless you buy nothing but fresh produce from a garden market, bringing with you a set of re-usable bags and maintaining a compost bin in the backyard, it is nearly impossible to avoid packets, within packets, within packets… Just as obvious as a sign of complacency, we have endless rusting corpses of once useful steel machinery – the carbon footprint in steel production, the amazing production that leads to this wonderfully useful material; it is an appalling statement to allow many tons of the stuff to sit and weather and eventually dissolve back into the ground – in some cases, it’s the desired path of this incidental monument.
Over the coming century, life will be radically different, for energy, food and water security will not be maintained on the same rules of the previous century. We cannot simply expect to find a substitute and continue business-as-usual. Besides, the way forward is not simply some vague set of assumptions. As James makes clear in his presentation, there are some well thought out methods to adapt to this changing world. The ideas in many of the references of this blog, which I’ve tried to sum up along the way, give some excellent suggestions for the world beyond carbon addiction. We must face this laziness and make changes while current energy supplies are still cheap enough to assist the required adaptation in human activity.