Could Our Stupidity Be Our Silver Lining?

With folks like this around, there's plenty of low hanging fruit to tackle. (So to speak...) Image credit: Energy Wasting Day 2008

With arctic sea ice retreating at record rates, and various climate tipping points being identified by researchers, being environmentally aware can be a depressing business. Especially when you look at the incredible waste and inefficiency in our industrial society, and then you take a look at the pitifully inadequate action by industrialized nations that is heralded as bold leadership (and decried by some as a global climate conspiracy). But I wonder if the very stupidity of our current systems is in fact the silver lining we've been looking for? I wrote yesterday about idiotic over-packaging, and the resulting waste of materials and, more importantly, transportation fuel in moving empty boxes around. But this is just one tiny example of a society that does almost everything inefficiently, and with a ridiculous amount of power. Just take a look at how many bikes it takes to power a shower!

Just shifting more shopping from gigantic suburban big-box stores to online retail will save massive amounts of greenhouse gases and oil, both by reducing miles driven to and from the stores, but also in heating, cooling and lighting these gigantic spaces that are mostly empty. Similarly, encouraging folks to work from home can cut energy use and increase productivity. Telecommuting even just one day a week results in a 20% cut in a person's commute. And with the average car using well over 90% of energy simply to move itself, not its passengers, there's room for improvement there too.

Sure, it's pretty depressing to think that we waste all these resources day-in and day-out. Even if you don't believe in global warming, it hardly makes economic, environmental or even plain-old common sense to do things inefficiently and ineffectively. But if things are being done so badly, then the upside is that there is plenty of room for improvement. And that improvement can happen fast. And contrary to what the naysayers and conspiracy theorists will tell you, doing things more efficiently will not necessarily mean the end of civilization as we know it.

The world is full of low hanging fruit. Just look around. Each time you see a problem caused by waste, inefficiency or excessive use of fossil fuels, chances are there is also a potential solution close to hand. Of course this may be stating the obvious to most environmentalists, but I was in need of a dose of optimism.

OK, now I've got that out of my system, I've got to go drive to the mall...

Tags: Activism | Energy Efficiency


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