Technology is the problem. Our elites have failed us. So much of humanity is Trumpian, invested in global gaslighting, in greedy, narcissistic bling, in climbing the pyramid scheme, in fetishizing the Great Man and dancing to some grand illusion of some glorious past and some ‘pure’ race.
As we race towards the precipice, a great number want to press the boot harder on the accelerator, as they froth at the mouth with QAnon conspiracy theories. Not enough of us are focused on pushing down hard on the brakes.
During this existential crisis — of which the coronavirus is just a blip — our technological elite are obsessed with designing a world of maximum consumption. It is modern technology that is the key accelerant of global warming.
Our elites, as they emit 100 times more CO2 than the poorer people on this planet, are truly invested in the planned obsolescence of life on earth. Our mega-brands of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are as far away from conservation, preservation and moderation as you can get. They have hooked into the primitive impulse wiring of our brains, and like kids in a ‘free’ sweet shop, are gouging on our worst impulses for cheap convenience and the flashy constant new.
What’s the plan of the elite? To catch the last ship to Mars as the planet burns? Or race to some bunker on some fortress island, smile as they think that they won the game of accumulating more wealth and power than their jock tech geek peers?
What can we do? Many of us don’t have room right now. Young families, poorly paid work or no work at all, all sorts of stresses with this pandemic. For those it is heroic to get through the day. Some of us have some room. I obviously count myself in the latter group, as I look back in shame at my previous life of over-consumption.
We do not have an energy production problem. We have an energy consumption problem. “In the 1960s, humans took about three-quarters of what the planet could regenerate annually,” Carl Safina wrote for Yale School of the Environment in January 2021. “By 2016 this rose to 170 percent, meaning that the planet cannot keep up with human demand, and we are running the world down.”
We are running the world down. If we keep building SUVs and buying new phones every two years, it won’t matter a bit that they are running on ‘renewable’ energy. Renewable energy cannot be used as an excuse to keep living to excess — or even more excess — that we in the rich world have become used to. Because let’s be clear about this: It is not the poor who are destroying the conditions for life on this planet, but rather the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. An immediate Armageddon would happen if the rest of the world started living like Europeans or North Americans. The cause is with us and the solution is with us, and the solution is that we must learn to live very differently, with much less natural resources, with much less consumption and with much more conservation.
My area is digital, the internet, the web. We are an industry of gross excess. Underneath its shiny surface, practically everything about it is gross and excessive: gross quantities of unnecessary code, content, data, apps, videos, images, devices. So little maintained, shared or reused. Let’s start fixing our own house.
Here are some principles:
- Useful: Make truly useful things.
- Zero waste: Aim for zero waste, both during creation and use.
- Durable: Make things that last.
- Reusable: Make things that can be reused and shared.
- Economical: Use the least amount of energy, materials.
- Activist: Be an activist.
Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.