Consumerism and energy

Sat Aug 8, 2009

I have often thought about writing about this topic, but I never took the time to do it. But others are much better than me at writing, so I better just post a link.   http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17569-consumerism-is-eating-the-future....   For some reason I’m quite aware of consumerism. Probably my parents were an influence on this. To me it’s been quite obvious for a long time that there is a problem. Years ago I found a graph of population growth (Google “population growth graph”). I found it shocking to know that the population has more than tripled during my grandma’s life. It’s obvious that if something that consumes food and energy grows without limits in a place with limited food and energy, there is a problem at some point.   I try to do my part. I don’t own a car. Usually I walk or move around with a bicycle I bought 16 years ago which still works great. Since I work at a rented office the energy consumption at home has been almost zero. I don’t have there any electric devices plugged, and the light is on maybe for 30 minutes a day. The fridge is the only thing plugged the whole day. I don’t drink cold water so I only open it two or three times a day. At the office only a router and a energy efficient computer are plugged. A few months ago I got myself a consumption meter for 10€ and had fun measuring different things at my home and office. I will post my discoveries soon. I will bring it around to friends and family so they can play with it. One of the problems with electric power is that we normally don’t have any feedback. While driving a car you can read and feel how fast you go. But at home, you only feel it in an invoice, maybe one or two months later, so it’s not easy to feel how much things consume. I’ve heard there are plans to fix this in the near future giving tools to people so they can see the consumption in real time, and maybe compare to previous months, compare to winter and summer, etc.   I rarely buy anything except food. I already own a lot of things, and I can only use one at a time. Why get more stuff? If I need something I first check for second hand web sites. I also sell or give away things I don’t need anymore. Getting a second hand object avoids the manufacturing a new one. Of course living like this is easier to do in some places than others. There are places where you need a car. I chose to live in a city where I don’t need one. Also there is a cultural aspect. I think in Berlin it’s easy to find people who are more interested in who you are than how you look like, so wearing not-so-new clothes is fine. This is harder in other places, where people would look strange at you, or even not let you in a restaurant or bar because they don’t like your clothes.   During the last 8 years I didn’t own a TV. At the beginning I thought it was great, but later I realized that I was using the computer instead of the TV. Since I work in this office, I don’t have a computer at home anymore. And I find this fantastic. Before it was not rare for me to stay until 3 am surfing the web. Now I either go to sleep on time, I go out and meet people or read a book. More real and less virtual :)   I find it awesome to live ad free. I don’t see commercials on TV or the Internet (I use an ad blocker), nor hear them on the radio. When I visit a place where TV or the radio on I wonder why are they screaming at me all the time, trying to convince me of buying something I don’t need?   Basically, I have realized that to enjoy life and be happy one needs very few things… food, friends, health care, a place to sleep. Most other things are optional.   One other good side effect is that if I don’t want to work for a while I can do that, because it’s easy to save money when you don’t consume much, and it lasts longer.   I don’t share these thoughts to say this is how people should live. That’s each person’s decision. I share it because some people seem to be trapped in a cycle described at http://www.storyofstuff.com/ and maybe they can get some ideas from these words.   I think it’s good to be aware that there are two ways of getting what you want. One is to do everything you have to do, maybe work hard for a long time, to get it. The second way is to change what you want. It think it can make people happier sometimes.   Time to ride the bike to the lake and swim :)

Categories: text Tags: social consumerism energy Places: earth

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