close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

November 21, 2019

Simple things

Opinion

November 21, 2019

Thirty years ago, a friend of mine published a book called '50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save The Earth'. It described the huge environmental benefits that would result if everyone made some simple adjustments to their way of life.

Six hundred thousand gallons of gas could be saved every day, for example, if every commuter car carried just one more passenger; over 500,000 trees could be saved weekly if we all recycled our Sunday newspaper; and so on. The book was immensely popular at the time, at least partly because it was comforting to know we could “save the Earth” so easily.

Unfortunately, the projected benefits of these simple steps were actually insignificant compared to the scale of the problems they addressed. Saving 600,000 gallons of gasoline sounds impressive, but it’s only about 0.15 percent of the amount of fuel consumed in this country daily. Half a million trees every week sounds like a lot too, but the sad fact is that globally, about 35 acres of forest are being lost every minute despite all the newspapers that are now routinely recycled.

'50 Simple Things' is no longer in print, but the idea that our most urgent environmental problems can be solved by tinkering around the edges of modern life just won’t go away. In 2006, for example, Al Gore’s 'An Inconvenient Truth' DVD included an insert with ten “Things To Do Now” to fight climate change: recycle more, inflate tires to the proper pressure, use less hot water, and other equally “simple things”. There are still dozens of websites offering similar tips: 50WaysToHelp.com, for example, has the usual fluff (“don’t waste napkins”) as well as some suggestions the 1990 book couldn’t foresee (“recycle your cellphone”, “use e-tickets”).

If there’s been much of a change in mainstream attitudes to our environmental crises, it’s that today’s 'solutions' rely much more heavily on technology: electric cars and LED light bulbs, clean coal and genetically-engineered biofuels. What this means is that while individuals are still directed towards those same small steps, Big Business will be relied upon for the huge leaps. That’s the premise of IBM’s “Smarter Planet” initiative (a corporate campaign implying that our naturally dimwitted planet needs corporate help to avoid embarrassing gaffes like environmental breakdown). Thanks to digital technologies, IBM sees the Earth “becoming more intelligent before our eyes -- from smarter power grids, to smarter food systems, smarter water, smarter healthcare and smarter traffic systems.”

At first glance, 50 Simple Things and the Smarter Planet initiative are very different, but they share a core assumption, which is that solving our myriad problems won’t require systemic change. Instead, it is assumed that modern industrial life can continue its upward and outward expansion forever -- smartphones, superhighways, robotic vacuums and all -- so long as the public focuses on “simple things” while allowing industry to do whatever might keep us one step ahead of resource depletion and ecological collapse.

This is a dubious strategy at best. Aside from what it means for climate chaos, it ensures that cultural and biological diversity will continue their downward spiral; that the gap between rich and poor will grow even wider; that the wealth and power of transnational corporations will continue to expand. (Needless to say, corporations won’t do anything to save the earth if it doesn’t add to their bottom line: making the planet more intelligent, for example, is “the overarching framework for IBM’s growth strategy.”)

In other words, what mainstream environmentalists like Al Gore and corporations like IBM are proposing is just more of the same. For many people this is actually comforting, because systemic change sounds frightening: they are accustomed to their way of life, and fundamental change can seem like stepping off a cliff. But done right, systemic change is something to look forward to, rather than fear. This has already been made abundantly clear by the local food movement, which aims at fundamentally changing the food system.

Almost everywhere that local food initiatives have taken root, the result has been more vibrant communities, stronger local economies, better food and a healthier environment. Systemic change via localization simply extends the logic of local food to other basic needs.

Excerpted from: 'Thinking Outside the Grid'.

Courtesy: Commondreams.org

Topstory minus plus

Opinion minus plus

Newspost minus plus

Editorial minus plus

National minus plus

World minus plus

Sports minus plus

Business minus plus

Karachi minus plus

Lahore minus plus

Islamabad minus plus

Peshawar minus plus