Monday, June 23, 2014

Changing Gears

Greg Foyster quits his job in advertising to explore alternatives to the 'normal' living of long hours in unfulfilling work to pay for a big house full of stuff.

Changing Gears is the diary of his journey from Melbourne to Cairns by bicycle with partner Sophie, searching for more sustainable and more enjoyable ways of living.

Changing Gears book cover

It's a fascinating read. A few people they met seemed quite extreme (I guess that makes for interesting reading). But the ideas can be translated into our own lives. As the author reflects on the experiences of the trip, the reader (or at least this reader) also starts to look at society in a new way - and wonder if there's a better way to live.

Greg meets a man who builds himself a 3m x 3m home for $4,000. I'm not going to do that, but perhaps our houses (and mortgages) are too big for what we really need. I'm amazed to read that nearly 45% of Australian homes have 2 spare bedrooms.

Nor will I copy the Buddhist monk, walking up and down Eastern Australia owning only what he carries. But I do think that perhaps we gather too many material possessions - and become way too attached to them.

So what did Greg learn from the trip?
1. Face hypocrisy. If our values and actions don't match, it's a chance to improve our actions.
2. Money is time, and time is life. Everything we buy represents time we spent at work. Life is short enough without wasting it to buy junk.
3. Stuff breeds stuff. As a former ad man, he knows that for every necessity, there's another bunch of things advertising tricks us into buying. It's not good for our wallet, and it's not good for the planet.

In summary, less junk means less waste, fewer greenhouse emissions, more money and more leisure time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Video: Collaborative Consumption

Rachel Botsman, author of What's Mine is Yours, explains collaborative consumption - with the 'help' of Julian Morrow. Basically it's the concept that having access to something can be better than owning it.

The cordless drill is a classic case. On average it's used for only 12 minutes in its lifetime. It spends more times being made than it does being used. Yet it seems everyone has one. A better solution might be for a couple of people in the street to have one - and for other people to borrow it. Streetbank is a good site I've found for sharing a variety of things with your neighbours.

Added to the sites mentioned in the video, there is a directory of them on the Collaborative Consumption website - organised by topic.

All this sharing helps prevent wasteful production. Less energy consumed by factories and trucks - and less stuff eventually going to landfill. Aside from that, it's a great money saver. Now that's a Convenient Solution.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

G20 or G19?

I'm often impressed how cartoonists sum up a big news story in one sketch.

The Australian Prime Minister is currently touring the USA. Later this year Australia hosts the G20. There's been some talk about how the Australian government might explain it's lack of action on climate change.

In recent times, the USA has announced a 30% reduction to power station emissions, China will cap its emissions, and Finland has just announced an 80% emission reduction target. The latter receiving much less coverage.

I've written plenty about how Australia is far behind the rest of the world on climate action. But the cartoonist sums it up in an illustration.

PS. The US move will also reduce particulate pollution, and as a result will avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days. That's $93 billion in climate and public health benefits. Also, it will cut power bills by 8% by increasing efficiency. It's a shame those sorts of benefits don't seem to interest Australia.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thankyou, Bendigo Bank

Bendigo Bank, Australia's biggest bank (outside the major 4) has announced its opposition to coal, saying it will "not lend to companies for whom the core ­activity is the exploration, mining, manufacture or export of thermal coal or coal seam gas".

This is great news. Customers have a new choice for banking ethically, without worrying that their savings are being used to fund coal pollution. Also, it shows that banks can run just fine without the fossil fuel industry.

Why not join me in thanking Bendigo (it's an easy type-and-send). This might be the first time we've sent a thankyou to a bank!

PS. Compare banks at Market Forces
See Bendigo's full statement

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Optimistic Pessimist

I was listening to a podcast from ABC Sunday Nights (Sustaining Creation) and was struck by this comment:
"We have to have pessimism of the intellect and we have to have optimism of the will. And that sort of optimism as an act of will is a very powerful place to be... It's hope as an act of will. There's no point in pessimism at this time."

It reminded me of a quote a friend shared recently:
"When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data.
But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse."

That very much reflects my own experience - as you might have noticed here on the blog. Understanding the enormity of climate change can be quite disheartening, but seeing the kind of ideas and solutions that are possible is also very exciting.

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