Daily Archives: August 13, 2010

Quote of the day

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

William Morris

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What seems to be going on here

The point of view of doing this blog is to capture thoughts, ideas, articles, websites and other stuff related to the MSc.  As I’ve started to post, it seems that there is a bit of a pattern starting to emerge.  This is that I’ve been posting things which look at different ways to encourage people to change their behaviour, particularly around the issue of ‘buying less stuff’.

So, we’ve got:

Make it a personal challenge to live with less (live on 100 items)

By raising the price, people will buy less (post about Peak Oil)

Create an immediate danger, clarify what victory and the enemy are (Ministry of Food exhibition)

In order to encourage people to consume less, you have base you’re messaging on why they consume it in the first place (‘Eat Less Meat’)

That seems like quite a good start.

Can you live on 100 items?

Here’s another interesting article, via Donald.  It’s from the New York Times and is about a movement in the States whereby people are cutting down what they own to 100 items.  So, out go the juicer and the toastie maker and in comes endless debates as to what constitutes ‘1 item’?  A pair of socks?  Cutlery?  Book collection?

Either way, it would be an interesting exercise to undertake.  Presumably, you’d start by keeping everything that you’d use every day?  Every week?  Then what?  But, by going through the process, you’re going to realise how much stuff you really need and more importantly, how much you don’t. 

In this way, it would be a little like camping as you quickly understand you can only take what you can carry and you try and extend the number of uses for the same thing.

Further, what this does is that it frames the debate about consumerism as a personal challenge you can discuss and compare with others undergoing the same task.  You can see what your 100 items are and compare them to others and debate the relative merits of different items, and the process of ‘One in, one out’ when you want to buy something new.

Perhaps most importantly, it turns the dry, negative ”Buy less stuff’ message into a game which you pit yourself against yourself and against others.  It makes you value what you’ve got more rather than feeling guilty about buying anything at all.  Good stuff indeed.

(as an addition to this post, there’s this site, the cult of less, whereby some American guy is trying to live with as little as possible – 2 boxes and 2 suitcases.  There’s an article about it here.)

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How oil can help Climate Change

Here’s an interesting article from the Guardian (thanks Donald). It’s entitled ‘Peak oil is the villain governments need’ and suggests that the arrival of Peak Oil and the accompanying rise in price for a barrel will quell our addiction to the black stuff ensuring we use less of it thus reducing our C02 emmissions.  Therefore Peak Oil becomes a sort of Trojan Horse for the Climate Change movement.

This is interesting because it suggests that it’s going to be good old hard cash that drives the Climate Change agenda rather than any desire to be green.  This is a bit ‘Route One’, although of course, money is always a significant variable in any decision about goods and services.  It’s also a bit depressing to think that the thing that will be the major variable to swtich behaviour will be cost, rather than some desire to do the right thing for the greater good.

However, I think that here are a number of issues with all of this and the concept of Peak Oil:

When will Peak Oil actually happen?  It’s been talked about for years and still hasn’t happened.  If they’re thinking of drilling the Arctic, then they’ll be thinking of drilling in the Antarctic and that could put Peak Oil back a few years.  And of course this will lead to an environmental disaster there, but then when has an environmental disaster ever stopped us drilling for oil? They’re still at it in the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, I think our desire for oil will always trump our concern for the environmental consequences.  Although I hope I’m proved wrong.

Peak Oil isn’t the end of oil anyway.  You’ve got all that energy inefficient oil shale and oil sands to get through first, if you can lobby and get past the Climate Change agenda.

The price of energy is vastly underpriced (in my opinion).  Say you pay £50 a month to heat your house in winter.  How much would you actually be prepared to pay to have a warm house when it’s below zero outside?  £50 a weekend?  The price of petrol and other forms of fossil fuels seem underpriced and they’re fairly inelastic so the price per barrel can go a lot higher, I reckon.  But then, the higher the price, the argument is less about what people are prepared to pay for oil, but rather the viability of making money out of other, alternative energy-generating  solutions.  But that’s a whole other thing.

Anyway, I’m sure that there are lots of other thoughts to come out of the article, but it’s a good ‘un.

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