Scalability over Sustainability

I’m probably pretty close to the stereotype of the ignorant consumer, who thinks little about the sources of what he consumes, but occasionally feels a bit bad about it, and so is gradually contributing (when multiplied by huge numbers) to destroying the planet.

There are many important topics in the world to get serious about, but the average person does not directly engage themselves in any of them very much. This is human nature, and any scheme predicated on the opposite will fail.

That doesn’t mean that the vaguely apathetic mass doesn’t care at all, it just means that they need it to be made easy to do the right thing, and they will then do it, even at some personal cost. We of the apathetic mass don’t want to have to think. For things that I care about, but am not personally engaged in, I want to be given the answers. Just look at climate change – it’s not until practically all the experts are agreeing on the things people should do to help that everyone begins to act.

To save the planet, it isn’t enough for the moral to live sustainable lives, we need the masses to live sustainable lives. To make that happen we need a plan that can apply to almost anyone, that doesn’t just help the problem but fixes it. It’s ok for this plan to involve some sacrifice, but not an “unrealistic” sacrifice. If the sacrifices needed are unrealistic, we either have to adjust the plan, find technology to reduce the sacrifice, or reduce expectations or population.

The key thing here is not to find a “sustainable” lifestyle, or a minimal footprint, or a carbon neutral life, but to lead a scalable life.

I was reading about no impact man, and what he’s doing is brilliant. He’s going to be many things, but something he’s not going to be is scalable. We can’t all be journalists and writers, and make money from our unusual ecological experiment. If we all were, he would have nothing to sell. We need to estimate what size population we think the Earth should support, and work out a way of life that allows that many people to live on it, without depleting the Earths resources.

So, where are the studies explaining to the normal person how to live their lives in a scalable way? What can I buy, from whom should I buy it? How much energy should I use per day? Is there some way I can make up for the environmental damage I do by taking the train into work every day? How much travelling is it OK for me to do (can I go help people in Africa)? What energy sources should I be using? There is pretty much no energy source that doesn’t damage the earth in some way, geothermal and solar cool it (and would cause massive climate change and habitat loss if deployed enough to meet our energy needs), nuclear is almost the definition of non-renewable, what can we do about depletion of metals and raw materials? How often can I have a take away? Is it immoral to have children, given the worlds overpopulated state? Cinema: yes/no? Tv: yes/no? Radio: yes/no?

So, if those who do get involved with these things, could just come up with a simple plan that resolves all of these questions and gives me a plan for how to live my life, without giving up my job or friends and post it here in the comments, I’ll try to follow it. Thanks.