Authors: Robert Skidelsky & Edward Skidelsky
An interesting question that is never asked in our modern society. Because surely everyone wants more? “How much is Enough?” begins by looking back at how we set off on this road to growth, and how the economy has provided real progress to remove the risk of extreme poverty. In the developed world, we have succeeded. Crops fail and droughts occur, leading to famines for the developing world, but these no longer impact us. We can buy our way out of hunger. We have support structures that protect us from pestilence and disease. What we are now facing is relative poverty, one person’s wealth against another. We should be celebrating this interim success, by helping those who haven’t reached this level yet. But along the way, we forgot where we were aiming for. We are all still climbing upwards, but towards what? Economic growth and GDP are the only measures that politicians believe we are interested in, and so we continue without an end. Written in 2012 after several years of economic depression, the authors review Keynes’ attempt to foresee the future of work and poverty as he saw it from the depths of the 1930s recession. Keynes saw the use of capitalism as a necessary evil in order to reach the point when we would get the results we were after. When we reached this point of abundance for all, when our ‘needs’ were met, we would reduce our working hours accordingly. Greater mechanization would mean less work would be required to create products, and so we would have more time for leisure, and life. Whilst Keynes’ predicted many drivers correctly over time, he underestimated the insatiable growth of ‘desires’ to replace our dwindling list of ‘needs’. The twentieth century saw the introduction of advertising to teach consumers to buy because of our desires, rather than our needs. We no longer had natural or moral limits to our greed. (You might really like eating cheesecake, but there is still a natural limit to consumption. With greed for money, this limit doesn’t exist.) Greed and competitive consumption were encouraged, and the concept of avarice, as one of the seven deadly sins was buried. Conspicuous consumption had become a requirement for modern living, rather than an embarrassment. Continue reading
Step 1: Understand your enemy
Firstly, you must keep in mind the importance of space and the unimportance of stuff. I borrowed The Story of Stuff from the library, to help the process (see the video version here). The idea is simple. Continue reading
Author: Susan George
This is the most intense, chilling books I have ever read, leaving me speechless for hours. It appears to be morphing from fiction to non-fiction as time moves on. George’s astute observations of our world helped her foresee the path we have stumbled along since 1999, when the first edition was published. Reminiscent of Swift’s A Modest Proposal, the straight-faced satirical style led to difficulties if readers did not finish the book and believed the report to be real. The new edition, published in 2003, includes an introduction by the author to avoid this misunderstanding.
The premise of the book is that a group of experts have been asked to determine how capitalism can survive in the 21st Century, what the threats are to its long-term preservation and what actions should be taken now to reduce the risks of these threats. See this excellent summary by Frances Hutchinson, for more details.
Following the book, you may feel as powerless and wordless as I did. I recommend visiting these sites for further guidance on what can be done.
TNI: Transnational Institute of Policy Studies.
Feasta: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability
Whilst the messages in the book are not the easiest to digest, it is a superbly written book that I couldn’t put down until I had finished. Read it, and then lend it to a friend.
Hair dryers are notoriously energy hungry, so surely shorter hair that is quicker to dry could reduce carbon without changing your lifestyle…
Through laziness, I had become ‘the one with the long hair’. This is an acceptable and safe description, and through fear of ending up with a worse descriptive characteristic, I’d stuck with it for my entire life so far. But I wanted to know how much extra carbon my hair costs. I use a hair dryer on work days, so I cut half of it off to see if I use half the energy.
Pre-haircut hairdrying would take 4.5 minutes.
Post-haircut hairdrying takes 1.5 minutes.
Hairdryer is 2 kW
Average UK grid electricity for 2013 was 0.44548 kg CO2e/kWh
Energy saving is 0.1 kWh per use (2 kW for 0.05 hours (3 minutes))
I dry my hair every other day, which adds up to 18.25 kWh/yearGiving a grand total of 8.1 kg CO2e saving per year.
It’s not exactly going to save the world as we know it, but it is a reduction for no effort whatsoever. Although, losing all my powers may be a price too far!
If your political involvement extends no further than turning up to vote, then you are missing a significant lever for influencing change.
Your money does not sit idly in a bank vault somewhere waiting for you to take it out. Giving your money to a bank means they can be sending it off to do all sorts of mischief on your behalf. By choosing your bank and your pension, you are also voting for what your money invests in. Banks invest in war, rainforest destruction or anything else that will make them money such as those shown in the video below.
To make financial investment and banking decisions, visit Ethical Consumer for the best advice. As the concept of ‘ethical’ can mean different things to different people, you can choose what areas of ‘ethical’ are most important to you. They also filter through the greenwash to help understand how a company has come up with the term ‘ethical’.
And as a further prompt, if you still bank with the big high street banks, take a look at this video…
Author: Matthew Yeomans
This is Matthew Yeomans’ essential guide to a product that now rules every aspect of our lives. The book aims to highlight the enormous influence we have allowed oil to have on our standard of living. In so doing, we are provided with the knowledge of what the future holds if we can’t break free.
The book commences with a race through the last 150 years of oil growth and dependency in 30 short pages. The aim is to show that this timeframe is a blink-of-the-eye in terms of human Continue reading
Dairy products are high carbon. Cattle produce methane, plus cattle eat grain grown on land that should be growing rainforests. The main argument for eating dairy is as a source of calcium to reduce the risks of osteoporosis. Further guidance can be found here.)
We need to dramatically decrease our dairy consumption to allow others to share in this, but also to avoid dairy cows being bred in areas where there is no natural food source. For further info, I highly recommend reviewing this FAO Report.
The UK has good conditions for growing grass-fed cows, but they are also fed on imported soy and other protein-rich grains. I love cheese, and I really struggle reducing the amount I eat, so instead of going completely vegan immediately, try some of the simple ways to reduce the amount of dairy products you buy: Continue reading
We live in the centre of town, and were receiving 2-3 pieces of junk mail a day. I never read them, they would just get binned. I felt guilty, as the local businesses were paying for this advertising for no reason.
In the UK, 2% of our waste going to landfill is mail. The paper and pulp industry is responsible for 5% of global industrial energy use, and is the fourth worst sector for releasing toxic chemicals to water and air. Recycling helps, but not using it in the first place would help more.
Assuming 17.9 g/letter received, the total carbon emissions reduced by stopping my junk mail is approximately 13 kg CO2/ year. Not a huge impact on my personal carbon emissions, but the volume of waste reduced is substantial, and it keeps my hall tidier, so I’d still highly recommend it, (particularly if you don’t read the adverts).
For further advice about reducing the volume of junk mail you are receiving, visit the Stop Junk Mail website, for some great advice and helpful links, including stopping the junk mail sent through Royal Mail, which will not be stopped by a sign.
See The Environmental Impact of Mail for further detailed calculations about the environmental impact the paper and pulp industry has.
For years, I have been going with a group of friends every week to eat at our favourite restaurant. The food was superb, but the volume of food was so huge, it was wasteful leaving it, so I ate till it hurt. To avoid this, I started taking half home each week, with the resultant foil boxes and cardboard lids and plastic bags going in the bin. After a few weeks deciding if food waste or packaging waste was worse, we all decided to take our own plastic boxes. The restaurants prefer not dealing with excessive food waste, I don’t overeat in the evening, I get a free lunch the next day, and there is no packaging waste.
You may think this is weird, but try it (just ask as you’re doing it). Restaurants would prefer you to enjoy your meal and come back than go out for food rarely.
As an alternative, if you know you are not going to eat it all and won’t take it home, ask for a smaller portion.