Tuesday, 11 September 2007

More on Lessening...


“Belief is when someone else does the thinking.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

Green problems are amongst the worst we face. We need to take more care of the world so that it will continue to take care of us. The alternatives don’t bear thinking about. Many have woken up to this. Many more than think of themselves as “greens”.

“Green” sounds like a belief system that goes with being a certain sort of person. Which can inhibit those who aren’t that sort of person. “Not my sort of thing”.

Back at the real problem, we need to reduce our impact by 70-90% each. It doesn’t matter if you start off as a vegan hermit or a gas guzzling global capitalist. Each of us has to make this cut. In fact the more you use now, the more you can cut, the better the improvement. If you drive a 4x4 – welcome! – if you could now please use it 70% less that would be great.

That’s why LESSENING exists. It is an escape from the idea of being green, into the practical matter of knowing what best to do.

“We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.” R. Buckminster Fuller

A core principle of LESSENING is acceptance.

1. Accepting each other. It doesn’t matter how you lived last year. Most didn’t know there was such a problem then. What matters is how much less you do this year. And then next. If we target 50% over ten years that is only 4% improvement every year. 4%. All of us can manage that, surely?

2. Accepting responsibility. It’s not just somebody else’s problem or responsibility (the government, the big corporates, the Americans, the Chinese…) it’s also mine.

3. Accepting the truth.
- The truth is there are too many people and we should think about having less children.
- The truth is it’s probably not your light bulbs, so much as your long haul flights, that do most of the damage.
- The truth is that having groceries delivered is much greener than driving to the shops.

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” R. Buckminster Fuller

The second big difference between LESSENING and green-as-usual is it is all about giving people tools not rules.

We are not a particularly wise species, but we have minds that evolved using flint tools, long before language or pictures, let alone the internet - and we still do our best thinking with tools.

Lessening will (being an open source collaborative type venture) enable people to equip each other with the tools they need to manage all of this on completely their own terms.

For example… What do you use your energy on at home? Light bulbs? The boiler? Cooking? Washing? Devices on standby? Cups of tea? If you knew the answer to that question you would know what to LESSEN. Elegantly and simply; identify this year’s 4% cut.

There’s three ways to find out:

1. read a consumer guide. But somehow reading about everything you could do – on average – is paralysing. You are faced with that choice of becoming a total green or giving up.
Plus we don’t learn well in advance – the best time to read a manual is when something doesn’t work – to find the fix.

2. Wait until home energy monitoring and smart metering is available. Several years probably. Plus you will need extra devices (radio frequency smart plugs) to check how much each device uses in the whole house. The ones that have a plug that is. But one day you will indeed be able to model pretty accurately how you are using energy.

3. Just find out, right now using a pen and paper. Every hour, when you are at home, take an electricity meter reading and run around the house checking which devices are switched on. Enter the figures into our spreadsheet. Repeat. The gas meter is often a little more inaccessible but on the other hand is much more predictable, so here just note down some daily readings, plus the thermostat setting and hours of hot water/heating. Within weeks we will give you a list of your energy use, per device. It wont be 100% accurate, but by aggregating the data from thousands of others, to fill in the gaps in your own records we can get it pretty close.

You will benefit immediately by knowing the truth of what you use energy for because its information you can act on – the truth of the situation. And that’s a much bigger benefit than just the facts. You are in control. It’s actually very interesting getting to this point, almost like a family hobby. Something to talk about down the pub (please do). You don’t need to rely on lists saying ‘fit a light bulb’ or ‘turn the thermostat down one degree’. You will know what to do to reduce your energy use at home. You may want to sound out others of course; for instance “I use renewable home energy, do I actually need to worry about how much of it I use?”

We could build similar calculators for travel, for household shopping and so on. What’s more you will be able to compare. Is one trip to New York (which you skip) actually your opportunity to get a whole year’s lessening done in one stroke? You can use these tools as you see fit; either online or just as a series of instructions.


Thoughtful said...

John. Ever thought about a career in politics?

Having someone like you in an influential place of power is just what we need right now.

Original, empowering and persuasive.


John Grant said...

Thx thoughtfully - it rather sounds like the career in diplomacy beckons in your direction :J

Andrew Smart said...

Here's a couple of thoughts/points of reference.

I totally agree with the point about not learning well in advance and I really like the thought of this place being a huge bank of practical information that people can dip in and out of. Maybe these two sites are a good place to look for inspiration:



I've also mentioned the books of John Seymore here before.


They might be a little dark green but I love the way he makes a lot of this stuff a lot more accessable.

andrew Smart said...

I meant 'Seymour' of course!

john dodds said...

You should start by explaining what lessening is first - i.e. say what's in the tin - that should be the first couple of paras. You can talk about the general green stuff later, but this is a lessening manifesto not a green one.