…we reduce consumption drastically…

According to current research, most industrialized countries have a draw on global resources that is equivalent to „using“ 2.5 Earths or more. A few are more modest, e.g. Indonesia comes in at 1.1 Earths.

Technology alone cannot resolve this situation

Some technologies are less sustainable than others, but what ultimately makes them ALL unsustainable is unsustainable behaviour of consumption. Reduction in consumption need not cripple economies if we envisage economies making value by maintaining and mending, as well as producing; after all, mended and maintained objects have preserved value for their owners. This would work with longer life-cycles being envisaged by manufacturers and cradle-to-cradle principles, i.e. designing them to be mendable, updatable and easily recyclable. Business models and consumer behaviour would also need to change.

We have the metrics and computing to warn us, and return to „safe“ behaviour…

Even biology cannot over-consume with its carbon-based economy. What keeps biology’s cyclical economies from imploding is brutal biological and physical feedback: depleted your resources? Then you die!

Clearly we don’t want this brutal type of check on human society and industry. Instead, we must harness our technological evolution and social evolution to help us. We have massive amounts of data, ability to analyze, ways to change behaviour: basically, react to the „negative feedback“ that we perceive. Carbon itself is probably the element on which we have the most data regarding its cycles, concentration in the atmosphere, and sources.

We need input from professionals from many disciplines…

The endeavour to change current consumption habits of industrialized countries would involve all sciences: from applied philosophy, through psychology and sociology, to the natural sciences. It would call upon the responsibility not only of individual consumers, but politicians, governments, industry and the media. It would be our last great effort, and last great chance to save this beautiful planet from irreversible degradation.

Further reading:

> Statista data on the number of Earth equivalents „used“ by various countries
> Cradle-to-Cradle movement, principles and practice
> On the role of social sciences in helping to develop ecologically sustainable behaviour

Copyright Andrew Moore 2024