Good News: The future is about conserving and higher-quality lives

Post Carbon Institute (transcript, audio)
Address to the Commonwealth Club
Thanks to Mendo Conservers Club

Chris is a former Vice President of an international Fortune 300 company and used to be living in a large waterfront house until he came to the same realization that something isn’t quite right with society. About 5 years ago, Chris terminated his former high-paying, high-status position. He produced the hugely popular, on-line economics Crash Course. His children are now home-schooled, and the big house was sold in July of 2003 in preference for a small rental in rural western Massachusetts. The family grows a garden every year; preserves food, knows how to brew beer & wine, and raises chickens. Chris and Becca are making sure their family and community are becoming more self-sufficient and are sharing much of their wisdom with the online community on his website.

[…]  within our lifetime and that of our children, these disparate facts will coalesce into the greatest economic and physical challenge ever faced by our country, if not humanity.

It is also my opinion that if we do not develop a clear picture of the world we wish to create, the economic chaos and turbulence that we are now experiencing will prove to be the opening salvos in a long, disruptive period of adjustment.

It is my belief that we still have the time, resources, and know-how to create a brilliant future of our own design but that by putting our energies into sustaining the status quo we will default into a future shaped by disaster…

…we have everything we need right now to align our economics and resource use with reality. And we don’t need any new understandings to be developed. Brilliant people have been working at the margins for decades defining the issues and finding new ways of doing more with less.

What we lack is political will.

But there’s good news here too because more and more people are waking up all the time to the fact that humanity’s long experiment with “more” is about to end and an exciting new chapter is about to begin. Where people’s minds go, politics will eventually follow.

The really excellent news is that if we manage the transition elegantly we can actually improve things. A life with less pollution, more free time, meaningful jobs, more happiness, less stress and greater connection to each other as well as to nature are all within the realm of the possible. But only if we correctly diagnose the predicament and respond intelligently.

Our challenge then is not to find vast new resources to exploit, but to undertake the far more sophisticated and worthwhile task of using what we’ve got more wisely.

Q and A:

Q. How do we get off our addiction to oil?

A. We have to start telling ourselves different stories. When I go to Europe, I find that they lead a pretty comfortable lifestyle. And they exist on half the energy Americans do. We can do so much with conservation. That’s the first thing that should be out of our lips: not how do we get a better technology, not how do we find more oil really deep down, but how can we conserve? I believe we can cut our energy consumption in half which will buy us a lot of time which we can use for reorganizing ourselves. Electrified trains, reorganizing how we work and play so they are closer together, barge networks that move things on water, which is the most efficient way to do it. Get by with less.

The status quo is not going to be changed in Washington D.C. Women’s Rights, Labor Rights, the Environmental Movement, Civil Rights… all of these were brought kicking and screaming from the outside in.

We change our minds. We create a groundswell of what we want, and the politicians will follow. We will have to put enormous pressure on them… it will have to be an old social movement again.

I like what Sweden is doing. The 2020 plan. They’re going to be off imported oil by 2020 if they execute it. Efficiency standards, new building design codes, etc.

We also need a network of currencies. Currencies are commodities. We need other kinds of currencies that are not based on debt. Why does our government have to borrow money?

I purposefully cut my standard of living in half,  and I doubled my quality of life. Where we get our happiness and satisfaction is about the community we’ve got, the connections that we have… the ways we have fun is a lot less consumptive than a lot of families and we haven’t noticed it. We have absolutely high quality lives.

Complete presentation here