Images by Tim Mitchell
The Ministry of Trying to Do Something About It sounds like a fantastical invention that's just flown straight out of a Harry Potter novel, but in fact it's a collaboration between the excellent New Economics Foundation and inspiring artist Clare Patey. This newly formed Ministry revealed itself at The Bigger Picture, a recent event organised by NEF which took place on the International Day of Climate Action just up the river from where Londoners gathered to create the number 5 of 350.org. Ration Me Up
Ration Me Up is the first intervention by The Ministry of Trying To Do Something About It in their mission to help people get involved in fighting climate change first hand. The ministry have created a Carbon Ration Book inspired by the ration books that were used in the UK during World War II. Each book holds "one month of your equitable carbon ration" and contains a variety of perforated carbon coupons that can be torn out and stuck on the back of the book as you spend them. Once you have used 40 coupons you have used up your carbon ration for the month.
Your Carbon Quota
The amazing thing about the Carbon Ration Book is the brilliant way it visualises and helps you measure the resources that we all use on a daily basis. The carbon quota has been calculated using the current target of 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050. We've all been arguing for our governments to take on the 80% reduction commitment, but do we actually know what that looks like? Can we even measure how that will effect our day to day lives?
Well, having looked carefully at the Carbon Ration Book I can tell you that I'm a hell of way off that 80% reduction, as I imagine the majority of other people are too! 40 coupons may seem a lot for one month, but when you get down to the details I probably currently use the equivalent of 40 coupons every few days.
Counting Carbon Coupons
The Carbon Ration Book is divided into five categories: energy, water, transport, food and clothing. It allocates people half an hour a day PC time, half an hour of TV, using the dishwasher once a week and having a bath once a week. But of course having a bath or shower uses water and energy so you'll need two coupons for each!
Shockingly one long haul flight from London to New York costs 344 rations which translates into a saving time of 5 years and 9 months! On the other hand we love the fact that the traumatic travel savings page is followed by 'Ration Free Activities for a Happier Future', these include: swim in the sea, pick an apple, smile, love, compost, write a poem and talk with a neighbour - all wonderful joyful things!
Creative Communication v. Practical Tool
While we think the Carbon Ration Book is a fantastic production in terms of creative communication, there are a few issues that make it hard to use as a practical tool. It is a pretty complex construction and it would take an extremely dedicated person to actually use it properly. After just studying it for a few minutes the realisation dawns on you that in order to make that 80% reduction we've all been clamouring for we will need to seriously reconfigure the way we live our lives. There is an argument to say that many of our current systems won't help, or even won't allow, us to make these changes.
A 10:10 Carbon Ration Book?
We'd love to see a Carbon Ration Book that ties on with 10:10 campaign so people can begin with tracking their efforts to make a 10% reduction in their carbon emissions rather than being overwhelmed by the 80% target. We agree with the premise of the 10:10 campaign that while dramatic change is necessary, that change must be managed for people in stages. It is much more likely that people will take on the carbon challenge if they are given manageable ways and time frames in which they can take action.
The Ministry of Trying to do Something About it are:
Clare Patey - Artist
thomas.matthews - Communication Design
Cathy Wren - Installation Designer
Dr Victoria Johnson - Research and calculations
Corrina Cordon - nef communications
Jonathan Atkinson - Project Development and Management
Jenny Hayton - Costume Advisor
Tim Mitchell - Construction
More on Carbon Rationing
Carbon Limited: What Would Personal Carbon Trading Look Like
George Monbiot on the Stern Report
Fair Shares, Fair Choice: Voluntary Carbon Rationing for ...
Rationing Of Carbon Contemplated in UK
Carbon Credits: They're Getting Personal