Apathy 1 : Environment 0Posted: February 29, 2008
From the BBC we have that UK’s first Energy Saving Day has been a total flop. The basic aim was to encourage people to switch off devices they did not need and they were expecting to see the power usage go down by 2 or 3%. On the day it went up by 0.1%. IMHO this is purely noise.
Evidently the day had very little publicity even though it had backing from the power companies and Greenpeace.
This reinforces what I have thought all along, there is no way people will lower their standard of living unless you put a gun to their head. Not using all the mod cons of a high energy use society is so far off the radar of reality it isn’t funny. And the irony is that based on reasonable predictions of power available around the world and what would be sustainable it would appear that is what we need to do.
In Australia I have seen figures bandied around that our energy requirement for very long sustainability is down around the 10% of what it is today. Even if that figure is highly exaggerated and the real figure is say 50% this sort of test in the UK shows the social limitations of this sort of thinking. It’s logical, rational and makes good economic sense to cut down power consumption but the simple reality is people don’t want to do it. Our power usage per capita in Australia is about 10 or 20 times that of countries like Indonesia or China and this is reflected in our very high (on average) standard of living. The simple fact is people will not cut back on their standard of living and those who currently having low standards of living are going to want, and expect to get, a similar standard of living. That’s just human nature and it will trump rationality and compromise regardless of facts.
Unfortunately I have no magic fix and I can’t see anyone standing in the wings with one either. As long as we operate the current economic model there is simply no good reason to use less power in most persons minds unless energy suddenly costs a truckload more. However this is at odds with the free market and competition trying to offer lower prices to gain more market share. The actual long term cost of power generation is simply not being paid and power is dirt cheap.
All of this is really a perfectly good example of a form of cognitive bias called Platonicity.
The idea comes from the book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
objects like triangles, or more social notions like friendship or love, at the
cost of ignoring those objects of seemingly messier and less tractable
Power consumption and standards of living fall into the messier end of the world and I have to say I am yet to see anyone with any clout have a serious go at stating what really needs to be done for a modern civilization to be sustainable over hundreds of years.
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