Friday, November 21, 2008

You Say You Want A (Green) Revolution...

via the always thought-provoking Still Life Living:
You say you want a (green) revolution,
Well, you know,
We all want to keep our kids from frying under a magnifying glass like ants,
You tell me that we need a solution,
Well, you know,
We all want to live sustainably.
But when you talk about reducing my consumption,
Don't you know that you can count all those other people out.
Do you know it's going to be all right?
all right? all right?

With apologies to Sir James Paul McCartney, KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire).

According to David Eisenberg of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology, if every man, woman and child alive today consumed at the average resource footprint level of Americans, we would need eight (8, VIII, 0001000) replicant planet earths to be sustainable. If, on the other hand, we take our current 7 or 8 billion brothers and sisters and try to establish sustainability goals for this blue-green ball called Earth, something’s gotta give. Population? Consumption? Equality? Biology? Rationality? While we may be Free to Choose, is it ethical to choose?

Quaker Ben told me once that he thought the world would evolve into either East Germany of the 1980s or the Rio de Janeiro of today.

Is that really our choice? Total information awareness, democratic fascism, or libertine laissiez-faire corporate colonialism where street urchins are hunted for sport?

Personally, I think it comes down to two choices: Arbeit Macht Frei versus The Truth Shall Set You Free.
You say you'll change a constitution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change your head.
You tell me it's the institution,
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead.

My advice is to start to "Practice Sustainable Sex".


Vincent said...

Not knowing the context of Quaker Ben's expressed thought to you, may I turn it around?

Setting aside choice for the moment, I don't suppose the average resource footprint level in America will decrease voluntarily, or by submitting global agreements inspired by ecological concern. But we can imagine it happening by some catastrophe, whereby the US consumption level would be limited to that of E Germany in the 80s or Rio today; without loss of its beloved Constitution.

Would the American people still feel it was America then?

MarcLord said...

hi vincent--

Probably not as a whole, certainly not easily, but I can make a case for it.

The concept of wasting power is embedded pretty deeply in America's psyche. And god knows we do that--a new big-screen TV consumes 350-400 Watts, enough to generously power an entire dwelling in E Germany, or Rio. All modern industries were founded on cheap power sources. All ancient societies used slaves as cheap power.

But oil or electricity aren't salient production factors to the future America. Plus it's widely recognized they're getting more expensive, whereas computational cycles--they're dirt cheap, getting cheaper, and are what our industry is based on.

Teraflops are the new power source, and our real industry is data. That's what the United States has shifted to making, and we're doing that better than anyplace else.

Making data is our strategic industry, and I know many tremendously productive (and rich) people in it who don't commute, don't even want to drive cars. If there were no power grid, they would charge computer batteries with bicycles.

isabelita said...

My interpretation of "susatainable sex" is not having more than a child or two, or none at all. Yes, I know many groups of humans have large families for various reasons, but it can't go on.

Still Life Living said...


There is one country that is already there. Cuba. They have proven it can be done, we need to figure out how to do it more humanely. May I suggest a smorgass-board religious approach to truth. "And you shall no the truth and the truth shall set you free." We have to run with this because it is the best we got. (You got something better.) We have to accept all truth, no matter how relative it is. We just have to be honest about it. And the big one, we need to do what is best for our children. Truth for the sake of the next generation.


Sustainable sex is a cluster bomb of truth. Use the term, practice it, and ask others what it means to them? Make them decide for themselves what it means.