Blogging just might help bring us back from our current highly unsustainable condition. How? Let’s look at how we got there: The history of industrialization is one of increasing scales. As the individual became a smaller and smaller cog in an increasingly massive machine, it became easier and easier to think that nothing any one of us could do would make a difference.
Real change, if it can’t come from us, must therefore come from the machine. Want more efficiency? That’s the job of the machine’s genius-filled engineering department somewhere around the world. Here’s the first problem: efficiency increases “they” can deliver to us can’t keep up with our increase in consumption. This is partly due to skyrocketing population, but it’s compounded by the massive inefficiencies of sprawl.
Here’s another problem: expectation of top-down sustainability solutions from the political arena are sure to be met with failure. Why? Because politics are increasingly crisis-driven, and poll after poll shows that while most people consider sustainability to be an important thing to aspire to, it ranks pretty far down the crisis pecking order. For much of America’s history, politics were driven more by ideals than crisis, but while ideals may carry the day in economically prosperous times, the Meltdown and its aftermath have swung the needle decidedly in the other direction for the foreseeable future.
Industry and government have collaborated in another way to make sustainability all but impossible: the very definition of our economy is based on ever-increasing consumption. A consuming economy is considered sick if it isn’t consuming more than during the previous quarter. What we need is a conserving economy, where things are valued by how long they last. A conserving economy values the act of passing something down. A consuming economy values the act of using something up.
Compound all that with the machine’s effect on us: all that technology has made us fat, as we drive our cars instead of walk, and consume ever-increasing amounts of “food-like substances.” It has made us lazy, because pressing the Easy Button is so... well... easy. It has made us intolerant; we can only tolerate a couple degrees of temperature difference, for example, and therefore the equipment is always on. And it has made us passive, expecting our vast assortment of gizmos to do almost everything for us. It’s important to note that none of the effects above, in my opinion, were part of some nefarious conspiracy to ruin the earth. Rather, each step was the logical and (or so it seemed at the time) sensible response to current conditions of industrialization. So I find it much more useful to look for solutions than bad guys.
What does all this have to do with blogging? Plenty. Because both government and industry are so heavily invested in ever-increasing consumption and therefore can’t provide true sustainability, that means that it’s up to us. What can we do about it? We’ve started already: we’re turning to ourselves. We’re setting the stage for grassroots solutions to come from the blogosphere.
Millions of people now get more of their information from blogs than from network news. Sometimes, the bloggers are trusted sources of original insights and opinions. Other times, the bloggers serve as curators of information from other sources, selecting the most useful stuff for their readers. Most blog posts are some combination of the two. This phenomenon is encouraging in at least two very important ways:
The mere act of seeking out blogs to read rather than sitting on the couch and soaking up the network news is the first step to recovery from our century-long passivity. It means we have to think, rather than just absorb. And thinking, more often than not, leads to action of some sort. The act of blogging has a similar, but even more pronounced effect. If you don’t blog already, you should consider it. The mere act of harvesting the warm fuzzy thoughts in your brain and converting them into a coherent written form is enormously useful, in my experience.
This is also good news because our hope of a sustainable society rests squarely on our own behavior. If our behavior doesn’t change, our machines can’t save us. We need a giant swap-fest of behavior-changing ideas, and blogs are the near-perfect vehicle for this task. We need millions of minds thinking, testing, and sharing green ideas that will spread. Please join the discussion!
I blogged recently about related ideas in Social Media and Living Traditions. Please check it out and let’s discuss those aspects as well.
This post is part of the new Twitter phenomenon: #Letsblogoff. The home page lists each week’s “idea worth blogging about.” This week, it’s “Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are?” I obviously took that question in a somewhat different direction, looking at the sustainability implications, as I usually do. Here are some of the other participating blogs in today’s #Letsblogoff:
Veronika Miller @modenus Modenus Community
Paul Anater @paul_anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog
Becky Shankle @ecomod Eco-Modernism
Bob Borson @bobborson Life of an Architect
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction SLS-Construction.com
Saxon Henry @saxonhenry Roaming by Design
Betsy De Maio @egrgirl Egrgirl's Blog
I’m @stevemouzon, FWIW.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 11:10 AM
I totally agree that real change comes from us and that nothing's going to be altered unless we make it a part of our behavior and patterns. Great post! I'm so glad we're all coming up with our own unique ways of saying what these subjects mean to us...shows how we're all individuals with great takes on life.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 12:27 PM
Well said, Steve! The "giant swap-fest of behaviour-changing ideas" is akin to the therapist's couch, on which behaviours can start to be recognized, analyzed and modified. So perhaps this process is part of the move away from the codependence on the Nanny State, and a sort of coming of age of the community. Keep bringing it on!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 02:38 PM
As a new blogger myself, thanks for the encouragement and validation that I'm doing my little part for us all. :)
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 06:52 PM
This is a great post. Thanks Steve! Your view is uplifting and I hope more people start to think the way you do about blogging and social media.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 08:32 PM
cindy frewen wuellner
Steve, beautiful words and images. that's exactly why we need to write blogs. Are you familiar with McLuhan's Tetrad? For every tool we make, we also lose something. As you said, gizmos made us and our cities fat. Do you suppose that we are finally ready to reverse that? that the tools now are so compliant , and our environmental mistakes so critical, that we will put people and planet first again? Perhaps with these megaphones, and with better data, we can regain some balance.
thanks for sharing your brilliant ideas,
Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 10:00 AM
Thanks, everyone! Cindy, I'm not familiar with the Tetrad, but will look into it. As for what's next, it's entirely possible that we'll be stupid until we get into situations where we have no choices... but I hope not. That's why it's so important that these conversations happen now, to help us with a soft landing rather than a crash.
Friday, October 15, 2010 - 07:22 PM
Steve I very much appreciate your thoughts and ideas and great efforts you put towards all things thoughtful and beautiful. I have learned a lot from you over the years- and when I am trying out a new detail like say a "jack-arch" or some such traditional construction where I am not bending the hell out of it and actually want to get it correct- I have reached for your books on more than one occasion.
I have recently begun a blog after thinking and pondering on it for maybe a year, and it has been a wonderful outlet for me- almost a therapy of words and pictures- so thanks for your insights into the collective efforts to make the world better in our own small but significant ways.
Mostly I just admire how your brain works and your faithful passion and it has always seemed to me like some kind of courageousness. So you also, keep up the good work...
Saturday, October 16, 2010 - 08:22 AM
Thanks so much, Jeff! If anyone doesn't know Jeff's work, you really should. He and his partner, Louis Nequette, do some of the most evocatively beautiful work you've ever seen. Check them out at www.dungan-nequette.com And the blog that Jeff has just started is the most beautiful blog I've ever seen... and that's just the superficial look and feel. Just wait until you get to the content!