Sunday, July 29, 2012

Society Perpetuates Consumption - torn between scenarios?

You know the saying 'self-fulfilling prophecy', right?  well I'm trying to find a way to morph this into summing up our society and it's continual need to (negatively) consume.  Our society is set up in such a way that we have to consume to NOT consume or that we still consume even when we're not consuming... we just delay our measuring of it. Does that make sense?  We're just completely wired onto the wrong circuit board, programmed the wrong way.  A 'self-consuming' society, maybe?

For example ... we need to reduce our footprint, our carbon emissions... and to do that, what do we do?  We make stuff to do that.  We don't just do it but we make stuff  to do it. We buy stuff to do it. Maybe we decide that we'll have the eco-friendly [whatever product] without asking do we actually need that product in the first place.  Consuming is still consuming no matter what the product.  We are just programmed to, whether we like it or not. 

We often don't change our lifestyle that tells us we need that thing... we just look for a more eco way to have that thing.  Do we really need it?  Or do we just want it?  'Ok, so we need a fridge but so we don't want to consume nasty electricity we'll go solar.  So we need solar panels and invertors or we need batteries for stand alone solar'... but they're just substitutes - less consuming in the long run substitutes, but still substitutes.  Maybe instead we should ask, do we really need a fridge?  Why?  Isn't that because our society is set up to consume and have a range of things at our fingertips at any moment?  Butter, eggs, yoghurt, milk, cake, meat thawing, fruit, veges... we excuse the energy 'needed' to keep them and have ALL of them available right now, because of convenience.  Why?  Because the way society is set up means few people have the time, the space, the skills, the energy or the availability to do things differently.

So will there be a truly 'sustainable' consumption based economy/industry?  Is that possible?

I try and ask myself when I buy something, 'if the SHTF, will I really need this?'.  Usually the answer is no but sometimes it's not that easy.  For example, I might not need it when the SHTF, but it might be really good to do now to help me get to the next step for preparing for then.  So is it ok to have it?  and for every 15 'good eco' things I do, there's at least another 15 that aren't 'good'.

Do you ever wonder exactly how we're going to do it?  As in... you know it has to be done, but really, how will it be done?

Gilding in 'The Great Disruption' talks about the 'one-degree war', and when you read it you kinda have a bit of hope and thing yeh, you know what, this can be done.  You get a bit upbeat... and then you watch people toot and abuse someone who's not pulling out in traffic, and pull out and go around them, only to finally see someone stop and realise the person is slumped over the wheel, collapsed... or you see the piles of landfill in trolleys in the shop queue, people abusing each other down the street, and all the nasty stuff in the world.
And then you look at all the political infighting and insane decisions and complete waste of Gvernment (aka taxpayer) money and opportunities and it's almost a joke.

So you might thing well, stuff waiting for the politicians, I'll do it myself.  And in your area, with what you may or may not have resembling community, you do try.  You work your way around ridiculous council and Government policy, rejection of societal norms, try and find a group of like minded people and get on with it, all the while wondering if it's ever enough and knowing that it's not ideal and telling yourself it's better than nothing and that you have to 'be the change you want to see'.  You try and deal with the lack of 'localism', and how spread out your community is.  The fact that you have to travel for 30mins in a car, to achieve some of the tasks needed for your 'increasing self-reliance' and 'doing the right eco thing'.  That to purchase a product that's ethical, you have to pay for postage which is fine but means it comes from the other side of the world... and you wonder how on earth that works?

Then you think well... if the demand is there from consumers, the market will respond, right?  Local stuff will begin to dominate, right?  Free range eggs used to be a very niche single shelf (and product line, most times) on the shop shelf.  Now they take up sometimes a half of the shelf space available.  Fairtrade actually exists for coffee and chocolate.  Products made from recycled stuff, are available.  So you swing between hope and 'what the..?' and you wonder how things will be able to change in the time frame that's needed.

But in amongst this too and fro argument, of doing enough, but how and how much is enough, I think the thing that's most clear is that at the end of the day, if the change to a sustainable society isn't smooth (enough) human beings are just as vulnerable and susceptable to each other and nature as any other thing on the planet.  That's the bottom line.  And I think that's a lot of the reason why people deny the type of change that's needed, will happen AND why people don't change their lifestyle now.   We've* set up all this 'stuff' to remove ourselves from those vulnerabilities, to minimise them but they're almost all based on a growth based economy.  So when the growth based economy fails, so do our 'security blankets'... and we have to deal with the fact that our vulnerability is starkly revealed.

'Fail now and beat the rush' [when I can find the link for that I'll add it] sounds really good.  Sometimes though it's just not that simple.  There are big choices I'd like to make but they don't just impact me.  They impact my family, my kids.  Two big changes that come to mind would in one sense be a positive step to the goal I'm heading for, but in another way, would severely undermine the skills, health and preparedness of family who'd be with me in that move.

All I know is I can't put all the 'preparedness for change' eggs in one basket.  I have to be flexible and I have to be prepared to adjust.  Being comfortable with uncertainty of that scale, is probably one of the biggest challenges.  Skills you can acquire, communities you can eventually grow, but accepting uncertainty and it's consequences is not so easy.  Don't get me wrong, preparing is great.  It's essential.  But it has it's limits and that's I think the biggest thing to accept.

And then, you ramble it all out on a blog post because there's no real resolution, no 'going to the back of the book to check the answer', but it's good to get it out.  Tomorrow you'll feed the chooks and check for eggs, use your eco dish liquid, water the garden with your collected rainwater, have a cup of tea using scheme water on tap, tea bags from the other side of the world and milk in a plastic UHT container, and go to sleep in a house full of devices and 'stuff' that despite your efforts, are very eco-unsound, because they're habit.  And wonder how you'll ever achieve a true 'balance'.

*recognising that 'we' doesn't mean everyone has equal access to goods and service provision, and that a lot of people already deal with that vulnerability within the current society.


farmer_liz said...

Wow great post kristy! I have the same thoughts everytime I see adverts for "green products" that just seem unnecessary. I resolved some of that inner turmoil by deciding that I couldn't save the world by making small changes in my own life, so I was better off just preparing for the worst, and if that means buying things so that I can set up what I need, that's how its going to be. This was vindicated when I read a permaculture book by David Holmgren - he talks about using fossil fuels etc to build things that are going to last for the future when we won't have such cheap energy (rather than wasting them making crap that's just going to break). So my philosophy is, if I must buy something, buy the product that is going to last longest in case I can't buy it again. I also think all the time, what would I use if I couldn't buy this product? What can I do to set up a system so that I can make it or use something else instead if I had to? That's why I'm learning to knit socks! (although the next questions, is where can I get sock wool if I can't buy it? It does become a never ending cycle!)

To answer your question about the porridge, don't use pasteurised milk, you'll probably end up brewing something dangerous! You can use yoghurt though, that will be much safer and easier to get hold of, just make sure it has "live cultures". Cheers, Liz

Niki said...

H Kristy, hope everything is going ok. Missing your posts. Hope uni & the family are all cranking along. Talk soon, Niki x

Niki said...

Hi Kristy, hope all is well. I think I commented earlier don't know if it came up. Hope all is well & the family is OK, Niki x

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