This Sustainable Life

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176: The folly of chasing efficiency

Ep. 176

Silicon Valley, governments, and lots of people are pushing for efficiency. I do too, but only after changing systemic beliefs and goals.

The greatest cause of global warming would have looked like the greenest clean energy innovation ever: the Watt steam engine. It led to our environmental problems today more than anything else.

We'd be fools to think today's green clean energy will do any different. Changing beliefs and goals will create results, not ignorantly continuing the patterns that got us here, thinking we're different.

Efficiency is different than reducing total waste. An LED will never compete with simply turning off the light. If you thought, but the light enables things, that belief, especially if you reflexively believe that the alternative to technology is the stone age, is the cause of global warming and our other environmental problems because it drives continuing the behavior that got us here.

What I'm saying won't change that belief. In my experience few things change belief, rarely facts, figures, doom, gloom, guilt, shame. Definitely not continuing what you're doing. What does? New experiences and community.

I'm not going to get into leadership and what influences motivations, emotions, beliefs, and behavior, but I'll tell you that if we don't change our behavior and beliefs, if we could magically return CO2 levels to pre-industrial revolution, we'd be back here pretty quickly.

And our behavior for centuries has been to make things more efficient, ignoring total waste, which we've increased. Almost nobody wants to consider consuming and producing less, despite reduce, reuse, recycle starting with reduce.

Folks, when people say that not acting now means we'll have to act more later to keep the earth able to maintain a population and society something like ours, they mean it. And people have been saying that for generations. If you believe efficiency only will make a difference, you aren't changing at all. You're doing exactly what got us here.

Change would be to reduce.


Here's one of the papers I alluded to. Quoting the paper:

we find that higher energy efficiency increased rather than reduced energy use, because lower capital cost enhanced energy use by more than the increase in energy cost reduced it. This casts strong doubts on the view that energy-saving technological change has lowered fossil energy use.

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583: Growthbusters called me extreme, so I responded

Ep. 583
The notes I read from for this episode:“Lead by example”. I’m not leading by example.“Extreme” implies values, as does “middle ground” and “balance.” Everyone is extreme by someone else’s views.Everyone I talk to says they are balancing, that extreme is too much. What are you balancing with if one side is sustainability? How can the answer be anything but growth and unsustainability? People will say family, work, making money, but it doesn’t change that they are fueling growth and driving a system we are trying to change. Nobody said changing systems is easy, but systemic change begins with personal change.Our greatest challenge is not finding theoretical solutions on degrowth.If we want others to live by values like sustainability and stewardship, how can we influence them if we live by the excuses they do? If they hear us live by growth, why shouldn’t they? What’s the difference?Every person who resist degrowth agrees they prefer clean air, land, food, and water to polluted and nearly all say they have to balance, not be extreme.I would only ask this challenging a question if I had discovered that every step toward sustainability, while often hard at first, improved my life.When I hear someone say I’m extreme, it sounds like calling a parent who changes their child’s diaper extreme.If you own a pet or garden, you’ve changed your life more than I have.“It’s okay for Lloyd to set an example of living a 1.5 degree lifestyle that many many people aren’t close to.” My point isn’t the logistics of how to do it, but our values and character. No one raises their kid halfway. We do it out of love, passion, joy, fun, and all sorts of reward, no matter how much poop, vomit, injuries.My goal is to help people live by values of stewardship and freedom our culture has led us to suppress so much we think we should balance them with dishwashers and flying to vacation.If you want to experience the world, get rid of your bucket list. If you want to love your family, don’t fly to visit them rarely.I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing too hard on them. On the contrary, I believe that all of us, when we switch cultures, will wish we had earlier. I feel like I’m suggesting to a parent who abuses their child that they’ll prefer not abusing it? I don’t want to suggest nature or Earth are human children, but we sure are abusing them.When you pursue sustainability enough, you go through many transitions. One big one is from thinking of yourself first,.If I sound uncompromising, it’s because nature is uncompromising. Too many people measure their sustainability action by how much they feel like they tried. That’s why they say it’s so hard, so that every little bit counts for a lot. But two things. One, nature doesn’t respond to your feelings, it responds to your actions.Two, it’s not hard! It only looks hard until you commit and sweat the withdrawal.Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.The Growthbusters podcastThe Growthbusters documentary