Cory Doctorow And Eco-Consumerism

I really enjoyed this fully-charged podcast and will be reading some Cory Doctorow.

I especially liked the Bruce Sterling quote about the “grandfather problem”. This is the idea that if you can do something less well than your dead grandfather, then it’s probably not the eco-friendly behaviour you really ought to be pursuing.

I think this stems from the idea that we need systemic change in the world, and therefore realistically can’t recycle our way to that future.

Soft green, middle class ideals like reducing waste, recycling and water saving sound great, but the reality is, the best way to achieve them is by being dead. Literally all of those things will be better served by not being alive at all. That’s a point I’d never considered before – we will be dead for far longer than we live, and none of those billions of years of us being dead will impact on the planet.

So logically, there must be other things we can do whilst being alive, to actively change things, rather than passively trying to minimize harm. We can’t do no harm to the planet, seeing as we need to use it’s resources to live and thrive. What form of green living allows human beings to thrive, rather than just survive? To improve our lot, rather than trying to go back in time to some “simpler” time?

The active version of more plastic recycling is not producing the plastic in the first place, and getting back to reusing containers. In fact recycling was devised by soft drinks manufacturers as a way to be able to produce their own containers, and to avoid transportation and reuse costs.

Instead of minimizing spending, you can actively buy objects that you love, and that will last a long time.

Instead of pretending we can all live off free range ethical chickens and allotment vegetables (which is a middle class snobbery that doesn’t scale to 8 billion people), embrace lab grown meat and vertical hydroponic farming, to solve problems for everyone, rather than just trying to minimize our impact.

Doctorow challenges a lot of middle-class assumptions about what it means to be “green”, and I really enjoyed that.


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