Friday, 6 March 2009

Behaviour change

Andy at DoTheGreenThing posted this week on the vexed topic of consumerism (taking the line "buy less sh** or we are f***ed"). I was chatting with Naresh also of DTGT about this yesterday. Naresh is worried that people might come to associate living well with less with the horrible impending experience of recession, worry, mass unemployment and so on. So that they couldn't wait to get back to where we were at the first opportunity. I wondered if it might also be like the post war austerity generation who learned a kind of caution - always having something put by because you never know if you'd have enough next week. Plus of course there are plenty of serious people in banking and economics who simply dont see "a corner". On this view we've had our glut and are now into centuries of managing the overshoot in population, materialism, energy, complexity, lack of resilience... If we are lucky this slowdown might just have come in time to take the edge off climate change. The peak oil view is hard to argue with long term, but many think that a food crisis (a crisis of affordability as well as supply) is the real breaking point at the moment. The Chinese gov just announced it is pumping money into the rural economy, which in some ways does seem a better stimulation package than pumping it into banking.

I'm right in the middle of a load of focus groups with people about behaviour change and personal transport and its interesting that the recession isn't really looking like the main 'driver' anyway (vs fuel prices did have an immediate effect last year). I'm also pretty much in shock reading James Lovelock's latest book (on the basis that it's worth looking over the precipice at least once a year) and where I've been turning in my thinking is the phased approach to part time vegetarianism suggested by Pachauri of the IPCC (Phil at the DfT reminded me of this yesterday and I think NEF have been highlighting it this week). I was a veggie for over 10 years at some point, but I ate loads of dairy which probably made it just as climate useless as eating beef. I do really like things like roasted veg and falafel and spaghetthi with pesto and I think I could certainly make my diet 'easier on the meet' as dothegreenthing put it.

Anyway it's all very current for me, as it's one of those times (researching a new book) when I am rethinking everything, less certain about anything and at least testing old positions with new research. The line I am supposed to be taking with the new book is about collective, co-operative, systemic solutions anyway and another way of looking at food would be that we waste over half of it already, between farm and fork. Plus good farming can have a positive impact on climate, soil health being a particular sort of panacea, I've been reading.

Where has everyone else got to, I'm wondering? More of the same? Any changes of heart?


John Grant said...

realised half way through my 'meat and dairy free friday' that a couple of cappuccinos had slipped through the net and also I spotted some ham in the korean vegetable soup, am going to continue & try to find the best way to integrate all this as the argument overall is pretty compelling (meat = 20% of CO2 emissions), it might be a case of vegan breakfast/lunch as they tend to be quite solo decisions & easier to control (plus are 2/3 of my food intake ie better than 'a day a week')

it may be easier just to go veggie again although vegan is trickier & would involve some delicate negotiation with the rest of my family for a start

paul macfarlane said...

Going veggie or vegan takes a family shift, indeed-but I'm seeing community shifts everywhere and soon to help change the food crises.

I've been veggie since 1998 for every reason imaginable and eat very little dairy-when I do it tends to be gourmet cheese or a yummy milkshake.

Your ideas about impending community and a walk away from isolationism bears this out-in much-needed group choices from family to neighborhoods.

All part of a need for growing cooperation yes, but as I always say a deeper need for sensitivity to others and the world-which is my book idea..drat--I owe the potential publisher a document about its target, how many I can sell and promote! ahhhg!
; )