The human relationship with our environment is one of the greatest immutable challenges we face. The environment is a system that acts and reacts according to the conditions in fact, the consequences of those reactions are not subject to influence, only the nature of the conditions created is available to influence. The greatest challenge we face is to realize that it is only by acting voluntarily on conditions that we can change, that we can affect the results of processes we cannot change.
Intentional changes that we make to our economic and social practices are the only way we will affect our environment. Comprehensive system change that incorporates economics and social cohesion is not a parallel effort to climate action, it is the necessary path to achieving environmental balance.
So much of the practice and implementation of LIFE’s policies has a beneficial impact on the environment. Living in balance with Nature is a core principle of LIFE philosophy, and so it is that the results of pursuing devolved representation and real social security are also environmentally positive.
The three basic factors driving us away from environmental balance at this time are the production of energy, the consumption of raw materials and the waste that results from poor design in the first two. Energy scarcity and population growth are factors in the equation, but they are not the problems.
The energy we produce is used in three primary functions: in our houses, in industry and for transport. The explosion of micro economic activity that results from LIFE policies will impact all three areas directly by:
- enabling rapid and widespread efficiency implementations in the existing housing stock
- reducing our reliance on heavy industry for every product needed
- moving production closer to the point of consumption and therefore reducing the
- transport load in the economy
- reduced dependency on industrial farming, reducing Carbon and reactive Nitrogen wastes
Communities, once given a greater role in, and responsibility for, their own affairs will undoubtedly move to create at least some levels of energy independence and thus stimulate micro generation close to the point of consumption. The provision of universally available public transport will dramatically increase the efficiency of energy use for this function, as well as its popularity compared to individual transport.
Furthermore, proper carbon loading of energy inputs and processes will drive more efficient and more effective use of large-scale energy production and uses.
The consumption of raw materials is driven partly by population growth but also very significantly by product choices in the marketplace. LIFE policies will impact raw material consumption in two significant ways that are beneficial to the environment. Firstly, the micro-economy will have a much stronger propensity and capacity for reuse, in addition to satisfying needs with products that last longer and can be serviced to extend their useful life — this is not rocket science, this is the way it was for centuries before the Industrial Revolution. The micro economy’s impact on the macro economy will be to slow the demand for disposable, mass-produced products (currently over 90% of all inputs into the industrial production system ends up as waste within a year) and this, in turn, will reduce the demand for raw material inputs. Secondly, the flipside of proper carbon loading is waste loading, that is the process by which the cost of processing waste that results from the production process as well as the end of the product’s useful life are loaded into the cost of the product at the front end, so that when it arrives in the marketplace it competes appropriately with all the alternatives.
Deriving the appropriate waste load for a product or process can be quite accurately done based on the existing knowledge base acquired as a result of having to deal with waste processing and contamination cleanup in recent decades. If we have the wherewithal to figure out the commercially appropriate monthly payment to demand from a 32-year-old male smoker living in New York in return for $1 million of life insurance, then I think we can also figure out the cost of recycling a beer can.
Given that a significant portion of waste management costs fall to the constituencies where products are consumed, it makes every sense for some of the waste load to be incorporated in local use/sales taxes. By adding the waste load to the cost base of a product at the front end of its life, prior to its entry to the marketplace, we will also have a significant and substantially beneficial effect on the environmental impact of all production.
Calculating an appropriate carbon load with which to burden energy inputs is not going to be quite as scientific or based on as wide a knowledgebase, compared to calculating waste load. Much of the future cost of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is unknown at this time and so will have to be estimated as reasonably as possible, but this should not in any way distract us from the importance of attempting to balance the energy marketplace with factors that weigh in our common survival. Given the global impact of atmospheric environmental degradation it is both appropriate and important that carbon loads are calculated at the world level.
The Limits of the Earth
Embedded in the discussion of reducing environmental impact, is the simple reality that we are dangerously unbalancing our natural environment to meet the modern demands of less than one quarter of the world’s population. The inevitable logic is that the world’s demands on the raw content of our planet have already surpassed the point of balance in many areas and in the future everyone’s consumption will have to be more efficient or less, or both.
To spell this out for those of you having difficulty hearing:
“You Westerners will have to stop consuming so profligately and the rest of you will never have the chance to consume so profligately yourselves.
While this may be disappointing for some of you to hear, at first, there’s every chance that you may have to satisfy yourself with the knowledge that profligate consumption didn’t make anyone happy.”
The pursuit of LIFE policies and principles will create societies with much higher happiness quotients, and actually sustainable wealth.