Monday, July 31, 2006

Complexity, convenience and safety are killing the planet

People in the UK are now very aware of global warming, climate change and the need for us all to change our way of life to help save the planet. By now I think most of us must be switching off lights when we leave the room and turning off the tap when we brush our teeth. Some of us are even not flushing the loo every time we pee.

So is that all? I'm doing all that - problem sorted? Surely not. In which case, what next?

Try the way the industrialised world is structured and run.

Many of the systems in place and the things that we use are designed and programmed to be wasteful of resources. For example:
- the system which forces some law firms to print out a copy of every email sent and received, in order to satisfy their insurers.
- the compex home entertainment system which has to be re-programmed whenever it's switched off overnight.
- the computer network which takes 11 minutes to boot up, so office workers have no incentive to shut it down.
- the health and safety rules that don't allow people set up small initiatives of their own without licences, permits, inspections and experts.

To really save resources and slow down emissions we need to make radical changes at the top level systems of the industrialised world, and to tackle three core concepts at source:
- the COMPLEXITY of the way things (systems and items of equipment) are organised
- the CONVENIENCE AND CHOICE to which we have become accustomed and
- the level of SAFETY AND SECURITY to which we feel entitled.

I am looking for examples of problems in these three core areas, which may have become so much a part of the culture that we don't even see them as being possible to change, especially if people have grown up with them. I'm also looking for examples of solutions already in place.

Send your examples of the following:
- COMPLEXITY: complex systems and equipment, especially where they use a lot of resources and where individuals no longer have any ownership of them - and ways in which communities are enabling people to establish less complex systems for themselves.

- CONVENIENCE AND CHOICE: unnecessary convenience measures and choices which we have now got used to, despite being able to exist without them in the not so distant past - plus tips which we may have forgotten or never known.

- SAFETY AND SECURITY: measures designed to make us more safe and secure but which in reality are sucking us into a fantasy world of total safety which, even if it were possible, would need unlimited resources to maintain it - and ways in which people are bucking the risk averse trend to make changes for themselves.

Send your responses as a comment below or email them to me at

Thank you


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