Bryden Allen's Website

Who Changes - We or the Climate


The normal accepted wisdom in the current world is that climate change is very bad and we must do something about it. However, we must also consider our economic growth and the effect of such a change on the welfare of our people. Thus young people just starting up, who wish to buy a house and have a family, are already pushed to the limit. Such people are in no position to deal with higher energy prices at the moment. Therefore we must adjust slowly to the new situation and allow some time for new carbon-removal techniques to develop. Thus joining the Kyoto agreement, which specifies a 60% reduction of carbon emissions by year 2050, seems a reasonable compromise.
            {But, as I am sure you know, the Kyoto agreement no longer exists. Since Copenhagen the situation has become much worse. However, I have decided to leave this webpage as it was when I first wrote it five years ago. The general aspirations of most people have not changed much since then. So this webpage is still a reasonable introduction to Climate Change and Green Living. My current thoughts on Climate Change are now given in my A Special Period to stop Climate Change.

 

This may seem a reasonable compromise initially, but let us now look at the situation in terms of ‘climate change’. Let us consider the following three points:

 

1)         Polluting the atmosphere with CO2 and causing climate change should, by any normal logic, be regarded as illegal. Thus, if a farmer lets their cattle stray into a neighbour’s property, then we say that they should pay for the damage they cause. Similarly, if a chemical company allows their chemicals to injure the health of local people, then they should pay for just restitution. So, if we the rich countries pollute the atmosphere with our CO2 and cause the people of poorer countries to lose their livelihood, then the very least we must do is to pay for the damage - and then correct the problem. Any destruction that a country causes beyond its own borders must be called illegal. If we want to be stupid and destroy our own livelihood then, that is our problem – but it must be illegal to destroy other people’s livelihoods.

 

2)         The situation about climate change is already very bad and it will soon become much worse. Thus both India and China are trying to follow our disgraceful example. Now just think how bad things will become if they, with their huge populations, start to pollute the atmosphere as badly as we are now doing. The situation will be absolutely disastrous. We need to rectify our errors as soon as we possibly can and so we can set a reasonable example (and then tell India and China that any form of global pollution is illegal).

 

3)         Climate change, as we know, does occur over periods of thousands of years - but we should not think of this as a very comforting thought. Over these thousands of years of climate change, some species die off, some species flourish, some move to a different part of the globe and others change their physical form in order to cope. All species have to change in a very significant manner to deal with the problem. We are also an animal species - so the same situation will apply to us. Do we really want these sorts of things to happen to us, within our own children’s lifetime, simply because we want to continue travelling by car too much and not using sensible methods to keep our houses at reasonable temperatures.

 

Also we simply cannot afford to wait. Thus, for example, 30% of the arctic ice has already disappeared, and so climate change is already significant. Moreover we cannot imagine that by simply stopping our pollution now that everything then will be OK. Thus the pollution that we have already caused will need to be removed from the atmosphere before things even start to improve. So we need to act right now, and so far we have done nothing. A reasonable time-scale I think is that we should be completely carbon neutral within 10 years time and, within 20 years time, the countries that created this excess of CO2 must remove their contribution to this excess (so that CO2 level return to a normal level i.e. the 1950’s levels).
            This timetable might seem a little extreme, but I think it has to be this way. Leaving things until 2050 simply means everyone forgets about it – because our thinking is that we will be dead by then. We should be acting now, and so far we have done nothing, apart from talking about good intentions in the far distant future. Remember it is WE, our generation, who have caused this problem, and so it must be WE who have to solve it. To bury one’s head in the sand and say it should be partially solved by 2050, when our children will be inheriting an absolutely frightful problem, is terrible. Any parent who thinks that we should wait that long should crawl under the table and hang their head in shame.
            Furthermore there is no problem about how this scheme should be implemented. All that we need to do is to decree that all non-green forms of energy must rise in price, over the next 10 years, until their price incorporates the full price of the removal of the CO2 associated with their use. This extra money will go, in the normal way, to the companies that remove the corresponding amount of CO2 (this removal procedure needs to be immediate and permanent – not like some of the tree growing schemes that I have heard about). This means that the price of non-green energy forms must rise considerably - but there is no alternative.

 

But now we ought to return to that very difficult problem that I mentioned in my first paragraph (about young people who want to buy a house and start a family and are in no position to deal with these extra energy costs). I am the very last person that wants to increase the burden on this section of our community. Before we can do anything, however, we must understand very clearly the reason that this situation has arisen.
            The reason is very simple. As is well known, over the past 50 years of economic growth various sections of our community have become much richer. With this extra wealth these people (together with some wealthy new Australians from other countries) have bought up many of the big, old houses in our cities. This in turn has caused the prices of houses to rise enormously in our cities. This in turn means that young people, who have had little opportunity to accumulate wealth, have been forced to move out into our new, distant, outer suburbs, which have few facilities or public transport. Thus these people are very dependent on cars and so these people are very vulnerable should a large increase in the price of petrol occur. Thus their situation is very awkward indeed.
            So, what is to be done? Well the obvious thing to do then is to tax the rich people because they have plenty of money and they are the people that have caused this problem in the first place. This will have the effect of lowering the price of housing in the cities and then normal young people can start moving back into the cities. The tax gathered could then also be used to provide good, public, energy-efficient transport in our new, outlying suburbs.

 

But – wait!, stop! – I am going far too far – I am not a politician and I only have a meagre knowledge of economics. The above case was only meant as an example of the problems we could face, and a possible way it could be solved. I am just trying to put you into a mood about thinking that we really may have to change our ways.

            Over the past 50 years we have seen an enormous amount of economic growth. This growth (and cheap energy) has meant the people have built bigger houses (that use more energy) and have started using cars as the standard means of getting to work. Also this economic growth has meant that:

We are working harder and longer.

• We are becoming obese through lack of exercise.

• Our rich are getting richer and our poor are getting poorer.

• Australia has lost its industrial base and we are now fully dependant on the global market.

• A large number of people now spend their working life sitting in front of a computer screen. Nearly all jobs lack much variety and hence in general the quality of our working life has declined.

I am appalled when I compare my own situation when I entered the work-force 50 years ago to that of my younger children doing the same thing now. In many ways we are much worse off now than we were then.

 

So in many ways we are now heading in exactly the wrong direction and so soon we will be forced to think about making some fundamental changes to the way we live. We need further economic growth (of the type we have had over the past 50 years) like a hole in the head. The difficulty, of course, with change is that you need to think very hard about what the best thing to do might be. It is always far easier to leave things as they are – and I am certainly not suggesting how the world should change. What I personally would like to do is to form (with other people) a green self-sufficient community that indulges in none of the stupid practises mentioned above. This is what the rest of this work is all about (as the total form of my title page should indicate). Unfortunately, I have to admit, the number of people who want to do this is very small indeed. However this work is also relevant to normal people (like you presumably) who are worried about climate change and who accept that we have to change our ways to some extent. Thus:
1)         This work shows how we can insulate our houses and then keep them at a comfortable temperature by just using solar hot water. We could then comfortably deal with the extreme temperatures of both Summer and Winter, and we could do this at a total annual price that would be probably be less than we pay at the moment. Obtaining solar electrical energy is a little more expensive - but I demonstrate that we don’t need to use very much electrical power at all and so the total cost can be quite reasonable.
2)         How to become self-sufficient in agriculture is, of course, a very large subject indeed. However I do cover most of the essential details of how it can be done. If you are patient then you will find out how we can, very happily, integrate a healthy, outdoor, agricultural life style with a normal city life. Thus we can save on energy and also gain a richer and more varied life style. I show that people could even continue to hold a normal city job, if they wanted to. As regards climate change it is important to be involved with agriculture because this gives us an opportunity to retrieve CO2 out of the atmosphere (by returning growth and organic waste into the soil as humus). Thus we ourselves can correct any excess of CO2 which may have been caused by our city life.
3)         The easiest way to avoid the excessive use of cars is to revert back to old-fashioned ways. Thus it is best to live in reasonably compact housing (i.e. terraces) that then can be close to a village centre. The local community could then run a small, electrical bus service to the local town, which could run quite frequently (and also hopefully connect up to a fast train service to the city). Besides this, a more limited use of cars can in fact be made quite sustainable.
4)         I show how a small community can develop its own reliable, flexible finance system. Thus the older people can be quite secure with most of their life-savings as equity in the community and yet, at the same time, young people can build up their equity in the community in a reasonably easy manner. At old age then all people will have an equal (yet substantial) equity in the community, which they can slowly withdraw (and then use this money for any care that they might need). Thus the capitalist curse of ‘the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer’ will not occur, and hence all people will always have sufficient savings to look after themselves in their old age.
5)         In a green self-sufficient community, I can show how we can regain our leisure and have no worries about obtaining further employment, if required.
6)         Finally I show how all people can be involved in the governmental process and so there will be no problem about a ruling clique emerging.

 

If you have studied the six previous points carefully then you will probably feel that the first three points are indeed relevant to how we might have to change in the future (because of climate problems). However, on the other hand, the last three points don’t seem terribly relevant to you (as a normal person) because you are already reasonably happy about how our current financial and governmental systems are run. However, you may be forgetting one very important point – the fear of  loss of employment. In the current western world, most people are trained for one type of job and often people stay in that type of job for the rest of their life. Furthermore, most people tend to expect the nature of employment will remain more-or-less as it is, and so they adjust their future life on this expectation (i.e. where they live and the size of their house). Now a major change in life-style (as an adjustment to climate change implies) will radically change the nature of employment. Thus I think most people’s antagonism to a full adjustment to deal with climate change is, not because of a slight change of life style, but a fear of a radical change of employment and its consequences to them. And I have to admit that this fear is fully justified.
            So – what can be done? Well in the current world there is not much that we can do. This is the way our world is structured and it is very hard to change anything. We, the human animal, are justly famous for our intelligence and hence how we can adapt to many different circumstances. But the same cannot be said for our western civilization (unless it gets a really good kick in the pants - like a world war, and then it simply has to adapt). However, if one does accept that we have to change, then we perhaps we should think about further changes that would make our society more adaptable to change. And this is precisely what those final three points are all about. If you study these points you will realize that, in a self-sufficient community, people will have no worries about loss of employment. Thus the community will easily be able to adapt to any new situation.

 

So you now probably have got the message that I would like those people, who are thinking about adapting their life because of climate change, to also think about joining a community that is considering about a certain amount of self-sufficiency. When you start to go through the details, you will find that the natural way of dealing with climate change will also lead to more self-sufficiency. Admittedly such a course will not lead to people gaining a huge amount of wealth – but there are a lot more important things in life than just having a big house or a flashy car.

            This is all I want to say about climate change because I am certainly not an expert in this field. Nor will I say a great deal on the subject of being ‘carbon neutral’ because I again am not an expert in the field. However the reason for this is also because there is very little that needs to be said on the subject. A self-sufficient community must, almost of necessity, be mostly ‘carbon neutral’. After all, a small self-sufficient community won’t have access to coal or oil and it won’t wish to burn any organic matter (because it will need this matter to build up the quality of the soil). So being self-sufficient, in my terms, means that you will automatically be mostly ‘carbon neutral’ – so nothing further needs to be said. {Besides, the details start to get very technical indeed. Thus, for example, I know that normal agricultural land in Australia only contains 3% organic matter because of our poor agricultural practices. Good land should contain 10%, which is obtained by returning organic matter into the soil. But, to work out how much carbon one can return into the soil, one needs to know: the depth of soil to which it is applicable, how difficult it will be to do, and how long it will remain there. So the calculation must be very hard indeed.}

 

So most of this work is simply about self-sufficiency. I can’t really claim to be an expert even in this subject - but I have been involved with the topic for a long time. Thus I wrote a paper called “Modelling the Energy/Agriculture Self-Sufficiency Problem” way back in the late 70s. I certainly passionately believe in the subject - and so I have done my very best.

 

Thus the following chapter is the introduction to the main topic of this work, which is, of course, self-sufficiency.

 

When I originally wrote this work I called it “How to form self-sufficient communities”. But the term “self-sufficient” is a little off-putting. After all, almost no community can be completely self-sufficient. I think my current title of “Green Living” is probably more acceptable. This name is vague of course. But any title must be vague until you specify things in more detail. And, in my four sentences on my cover page, I give you a slight picture of what I am doing here. But, in the rest of my text, it is hard to know whether I should call my community a “self-sufficient community” or a “green community”. In practise it makes no difference because a “self-sufficient community” must be very green community because it simply won’t have access to any oil or coal. But, as in my original text I always called my community a “self-sufficient community”, I thought it easiest to leave it that way. The term “self-sufficient” also has the slight advantage of being more definite.

 

Click on  “Green Living - book”(pdf) to go to the complete book.

 

You might now also like to look back at:

either my "Home Page" (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages),

or Green Living (which introduces this major set of webpages).

 

My next normal webpage is How this Green Living book came to be written.

 

Updated on 17/11/2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can click on any of the following pictures and this will send you to the relevant webpage.