I’m currently reading Molly Scott Cato’s book, The Bioregional Economy. You’re going to be hearing a lot about this, because it’s having a huge impact on my thinking. How I perceive the place of Druidry in the world is shifting. The choices I mean to make in my own life are all being reconsidered, too. In addition to that, I am so inspired by Molly and her vision that I will be investing time and energy in trying to get her work in front of more people. I’m not prone to being so inspired by people that I have to leap into action and do something, but Molly is an exception in so many ways.
We cannot have infinite population growth and infinite economic growth and infinite growth in consumption, given that we start out with finite resources. I’ve known this for years. What I’ve not had before is any sense of how energy use would need to change so that we can viably live within our means. According to The Bioregional Economy, current thinking puts the figure somewhere between a 70 and 90% reduction. That’s a staggering prospect with huge implications, and has really brought home to me the scale of the problem.
Could I cut my energy consumption by 70%? I may not be a good case study here because there’s already a lot of things I don’t have that a great many people take for granted as necessary. I’m living in a small space, with no car, no television, no fridge or freezer, a caravan sized washing machine. We have computers for work, we have a phone and the internet but are otherwise pretty low tech. I can’t cut back much further without being unable to work, and as this is a rented flat, there are things I’m not able to do in terms of getting a more efficient boiler, a water meter, or solar panels.
Most of my scope for cutting energy use depends on better sourcing of that which I consume. This makes me realise that I do not have any idea how the various things I buy contribute to energy use. There is nothing to tell me what the real cost of my food and clothes actually is. Where they were made, how they were produced, how they travelled, how people in that process were treated, and so forth, remain unknown to me. If I could get everything locally and direct from producers, I might be in with a chance of both knowing, and doing better. The costs of that would still be prohibitive for me, although I’m doing what I can.
There is a cost to all the things we are able to source cheaply in supermarkets. Most of that cost is invisible, but it is actually part of the reason why I would struggle to afford the things made by local craftspeople and the produce on the farmers’ markets. We push prices down all the time, and there’s a miss-match between what it is possible to earn, and what it is necessary to be able to spend. To sell my work in the modern market place, I have to charge so little as to push myself out to the margins. We’ll spend more on takeaway food than we are happy paying for printed books. British farmers in the UK struggle to make ends meet, unable to compete with cheap foreign imports. In other countries, people are growing flowers to sell commercially but cannot afford to reliably feed or educate their children. The whole system, is mad.
We keep hanging onto this myth, perpetuated by popular culture, that science will find a magic solution. Star Trek style technology will give us the lifestyle we’ve been sold, at knockdown prices with clean air. That isn’t happening. We keep taking more than the natural systems that support us are able to keep providing, and that plainly isn’t going to work.
A 70% reduction in energy use. That’s a stark and alarming figure. 90% is really rather frightening. What would that leave us? What will life look like when we finally bite the bullet and stop pretending there isn’t a problem? Assuming we get round to that in time. It casts the whole concept of what we might need in such a different way as to challenge every assumption our culture holds right now. That’s probably a good thing. Right now I don’t know how to do it, but I am determined to face that challenge.