The latest—and most dire—report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is notable for the fact that the authors propose for the first time a solution that has nothing to do with a tech fix. As described in the journal Foreign Policy, “an exciting new scenario . . . developed by an international team of scientists” can help us reduce carbon emissions fast enough to keep under a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C. And the solution is . . . [drumroll]: “that we start to consume less.”
Well, yeah! I’m down with that. It’s not such a new idea after all. The patron saint of consuming less, Henry David Thoreau, issued his Walden manifesto in 1854, and the voluntary simplicity movement he inspired has been alive and well in the United States for at least the last fifty years. Our native peoples also knew a little about living within one’s means.
Yes, it’s fun to buy big houses and cars and stuff we don’t really need, but apparently we do so at the risk of passing along to our children’s and grandchildren’s generations more sea level rise, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, crop failures, drought-and-crop-failure-caused wars (like the one in Syria), and mass migrations of climate refugees. Anyone ready to give it a rest?
To be clear, we can do it “only if we’re willing to fundamentally change the logic of our economy,” according to Jason Hickel in his 18 October 2018 Foreign Policy piece entitled “The Hope at the Heart of the Apocalyptic Climate Change Report.” Here’s what he says that means: “It means moving away from disposable products toward goods that last. It means repairing our existing things rather than buying new ones. It means designing things so that they can be repaired (modular devices such as Fairphones rather than proprietary devices such as iPhones). It means investing in public goods and finding ways to share stuff—from cars to lawn mowers—shifting from an ethic of ownership to an ethic of usership.”
Sounds good to me. And I have an idea about where to start.
We could take the idea of Buy Nothing Day, which Wikipedia tells us was “founded in Vancouver by artist Ted Dave” and is now observed all over the world on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, and expand it to Buy Nothing Season. Instead of giving manufactured goods to each other in an attempt to lighten up the darkest days of winter, we could go back to the old-fashioned ways of making crafty gifts or consumables like jams and cookies (vegan and sugar free, of course). Give tickets for live events or gift certificates for watering someone’s plants while they’re away. Donate to a good cause (like Wikipedia) in someone’s name.
And remember to take a walk outside and appreciate the beauty and sanity available to us free of charge every day of the year.