April 7, 2007
The Ahhh... of symptomatic relief!
Designing the world....
Another view of the current super-fad of 'sustainable design' is that it's a lovely idea, but really misguided in the worst way. For people who care about the earth it just *feels* so good though, so how could it possibly be wrong?? It promotes the problem by diverting us to relieving symptoms. It diverts us to relieving the strains and conflicts of our relentless growth system, taking only the worst edges off the conflict, making people and the earth continue to be what relents to conform to insatiable growth, rather than by easing back on the drivers of growth themselves! Sustainable design is not sustainable because it allows the underlying conflict between uncontrolled growth and the earth to continually multiply.
Sound simple? Well it is at that level, but then gets very thick when you realize that for investors to do actual sustainable development they'd *not* have to make buildings or cars super efficient, but *would* have to spend their profits on something they care about so their investments would stop multiplying. Ending the primary method of multiplying money without multiplying work is a big deal! It's the multiplication of investments in the hands of people controlling large sums of money that is the source of nearly all work..., and on both sides everyone is deeply addicted to it. It becomes a rather sensitive matter to it bring up with your clients, the requirement of actual sustainability, that business investments stop multiplying without bringing the world system to collapse. If you mention that incidental truth to them, they might blink and say, that's all well and good but just let me continue multiplying my wealth without increase in effort just a little longer, and please give me rewards for my ethics and stewardship, or I'll hire someone else who will! It's the Faustian bargain at the heart of business.
Well, slipping back and forth between tongue-in-cheek and the real dilemmas of understanding our problem is my mood this morning. I did a little slide show, I think 8 slides, that shows you how to read US Dept. of Energy graphs, and why using energy efficiency to support economic growth, *always* multiplies total consumption! http://www.synapse9.com/issues/GroEfficiency40.ppt.
The symptomatic relief of better buildings and cars that have lighter environmental footprints feels just wonderful, even if that feeling is a little dishonest because we're continuing to multiply the total number of footprints.... That good feeling, unfortunately, is letting us slip past the sometimes prickly heat of being truthful with ourselves and each other. I myself seem to have latched onto those common little ‘avoid me’ signs in my own thinking as very probable doors to great new insight. I may do little tests to see if they’re actually black holes or something, but they almost never are. If only we were devoting our enormous creativity to solving the problems of habitual growth rather than hiding the problem, I myself would have a lot less indigestion! :,)
Posted by Phil at April 7, 2007 9:01 AM Category: Environment