Posted by: The Amoeba | August 29, 2009

Dude and Dude: Sustainabull

“Dude! What the hell are you doing?!?

“Crushing beer cans, dude. Doing my bit for recycling.”

“Well, will you do your bit someplace else, dude? You’re making my head hurt.”

“Look, dude, it takes a little effort to go green. If you can’t take the pain of reducing, reusing, and …”

“Dude, the pain comes from watching you bang away and realizing you got no clue. How many of those beers did you drink today?”

“Four. About average.”

“So you’ve put four of those cans into the waste stream. Did you know that the average dude today puts twice as much trash into the world than a dude in 1960?”

“No, dude, I didn’t. So you’re going to tell me I only get two beers a day, ain’t ya?”

“No, dude, I’m not. Because I’m gonna ask you, how many people are alive today on this planet?”

I dunno. I don’t talk with OC the way you do. No wonder you get headaches.”

“Well, for your aspirin-gobbling pleasure, dude, I’ll tell you. It’s around 6.6 thousand million of us.”

“Thousand million? Is that English?”

“As a matter of fact, it is. The American would be 6.6 billion.”

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

“‘Cause someone from Melbourne might be listening in on this conversation. Though I don’t know why they’d hang around to hear your pearls of wisdom. Care to have a guess how many of us there were in 1960?”

“Six billion?”

“Try three, dude. About half as many as there are now. Each one of them generating, on average, half as much trash as you. So, math genius, how many beers do you get a day so you can just break even in the trash sweepstakes with the dudes of 1960?”

“Um … [gulp] … one?

“Ring the happy bells, dude! One it is. Now let’s find out just how much you’ve won. Just to break even with 1960, dude, you’ve got to use one-fourth of the food (and probably one-sixteenth of the food packaging), do one-fourth of the driving, buy one-fourth of the toilet paper …”

No, dude! Not the toilet paper!!

“Just be thankful you’re not left-handed, dude.”

“But, dude! This is terrible! You’re telling me that the only way to develop a sustainable lifestyle is to go back to the Stone Age!?!

“Stone Age technology won’t feed 600 million of us, dude. Never mind 6.6 billion. We’d better do a whole lot better than that, or else. Just don’t lecture me about the ‘pain of reducing’, dig? Even with every technology we can put out there, ‘green’ is going to hurt a whole lot more than anyone outside of Rwanda can imagine. And don’t let any of these envirosnakeoil salesmen tell you any different. No matter how pretty their lies are.”

Tip of the propeller beanie to Anthony North’s Code Blue story for the inspiration for this post. Tony, though, wants to blame The Corporations for global environmental calamity, whilst Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba argues that The Corporations only do what We tell them to. The Corporations could figure out how to do The Right Thing and still make money, if We told them (via what we buy and how we buy it) that ‘green’ is what We want. But, I think, We the People don’t really want to hear the truth about being green. We might have to dump the Lexus …

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. Dude… WE the People are responsible for virtually EVERYTHING that goes on in the world. WE the People love to whine and complain about absolutely everything in our lives, but WE the people don’t realllllllly want to do a THING about ANY of it! And we certainly don’t want to hear that WE are responsible for it!

    It’s just like parents complaining about too much violence on television for their children — but they don’t turn the tv off. TV is their babysitter. WE the people complain that athlete’s salaries are astronomically high… but WE the people continue to buy tickets to those sporting events! McDonald’s makes us fat – but we still eat there. Yada yada yada…. etc… etc…

    • Melli, we can start the revolution together … 😉

  2. Thanks for the link, and I’m glad you liked the story. You raise an important point and you’re quite right. We, the people, will not do what we need to, and never will. The Corporations know that. But ‘the people’ never really have done anything. It’s new ideas that change things, convincing we ‘the people’ that we ‘the people’ wanted it all along. I think the answer is found in my reply to Quilly on the linked post:

    ‘As I see it, we don’t yet realise the problem. We see being green as fighting the people’s urge to ‘want’. I think this is a smokescreen. People will always ‘want’ – it is in our nature. The answer is to satisfy this ‘want’ in a sustainable way.
    Now, the tech and ideas to do this have been on the drawingboard for a long time but are starved of funds to develop properly. The answer is to understand why. And to me, Big Biz simply doesn’t want this tech or new ideas as they do not require big ’systems’ to run them. It would be downscaling to a smaller form of enterprise. Big Biz can only survive with big systems. So to accept the new would be to destroy themselves. And this is where the problem lies.’

    • Tony, I did see that response, and would have linked to it if I could have figured out how to link both the main post and the comment without confusing everybody.

      I can tell you from personal experience, however, that Big Biz does want the new tech, and will run with it as soon as it runs a profit. In fact, some Big Biz would run with it now if they weren’t afraid of We the People – in particular, those of Us who own stocks, directly and indirectly, and will pull those stocks in a New York minute if there’s the slightest whiff in the marketplace that profits are going anywhere but up, and up into the pockets of shareholders.

      See Wendell Potter’s assessment of the US health care system, in which We the People, in the guise of the Market, have forced health insurers to decrease the percentage of revenues going to claims from 95% to 80% – the rest going to shareholders – thus, in large part, creating the social and economic disaster that is American health care.

  3. Hope you don’t mind me coming back – I just love debating 🙂
    As I see it, ‘the people’ decide what they want from the tight alternatives offered to them. This is natural – very few know what they want until they see it. I agree that Big Biz may well fear shareholders, but the vast majority of shares are own by institutions – other elements of Big Biz. Not sure the people as individuals have any say in this at all.
    The new tech Big Biz seems to like is limited. As I see it, for motor transport they want hybrids, which guarantee the big systems of oil production. As for power, I have this suspicion they’re just playing ‘alternatives’ until they convince ‘the people’ that they ARE green, but alternatives can’t provide – but hey, look at our new nuclear power stations.
    Then again, I could just be an old cynic 😉

    • Come as many times as you like, and welcome, Tony. I confess I’m less skilled as a debater than some, I could use the practice ;).

      the vast majority of shares are own by institutions – other elements of Big Biz.

      This is true – but (correct me if I’m wrong) most of those big institutions are, like, brokers managing mutual funds and similar investment types. Their strategies ultimately are driven by the individual investor – who, if the middleman doesn’t maximize the individual’s investments, is likely to move funds to another, more profitable middleman. Once again, the individual’s “say” is in that individual’s buying habits, which, I argue, dictate all else that happens.

      How much of that “say” is actually conscious? I would like to say “lots”, but I fear that commits what Quilly and I have come to call the “99th percentile fallacy”: the idea that because I may have the probity and the energy to calculate their situation and act on those calculations, everyone else can and will do the same if only they were to be presented with the facts. The truth appears to be that a sizeable slug of people would rather just do as somebody persuasive tells them, and use the time and work saved to obsess over American Idol.

      These people represent a huge profit potential, for relatively little labor (First Principle of Marketing: if the customer is allowed to think, you’ve lost the sale), so it’s no surprise that BB, who are either experts at identifying and exploiting profit potential or they’re collecting welfare, targets them.

      The “hybrid cars” case is complex. Yes, it guarantees an output for oil production. But the big oil companies can all see that their fossil oil businesses have finite endpoints, even though, right now, nothing else will make the kinds of profits that will keep their investors from bolting. The BB that has significant market share in oil and electricity generation is in industrial Nirvana. But the big electricity generators know this and aren’t selling to the BPs of this world. I think.

      I think I’m right to point out that all comes back to individual decisions. I think you’re right to point out that most individuals make decisions blindly, and Big Biz exploits that trait of ours to the hilt. See, elsewhere, the demise of public education in America.

  4. Thanks for that 🙂
    Yes, many institutions are as you describe, but also we have the funds from pensions and mortgages. Those who pay into these funds have little say, all decisions made by those who control them. It is here where Big Biz stitches up the average investor. And we nearly all pay for this privilege.
    I agree that the oil companies realise they’ve got a finite resource, but the question is: what do they do with that realisation? It is human nature to not face real issues until we have to, and I think this is increased in large organisations. That’s why the short term plan was invented. Burying our heads in the sand becomes mandatory.

    • Pensions and mortgages … point taken.

      As for the oil companies, actually many of them used a chunk of the windfall megaprofits from the pre-crash price spikes to invest significantly in alternative technologies. They now have a portfolio of ideas from which to choose, based on the economics relative to pumping oil out of the ground. Naturally, a lot of these you don’t hear about, corporate secrecy and all that. They also know that most of these ideas don’t make money until the price of oil reaches $X per barrel. They know they have to face the future, and do so while they can, but they also have to stay in business long enough for that future to come to pass.

      Which brings me to the sorry state of public-good research, something upon which the companies used to rely for the ideas that generate the alternative technologies. At least in the US, funding for such research has become so straitened that companies now do the research themselves (which increases both their costs and their reluctance) or do nothing. The straitened research funding is a direct reflection of the preferences of the voters, because a vote in Congress for science rarely pays off in votes on election day, whereas a vote against science (especially if, for instance, buzzwords like “stem cell research” are in play) will win them votes on election day. Once again, We pay the price because both Corporations and Government are doing just what We are telling them to.

  5. I agree with you on the terrible state of public-funded research. As I see it, governments make terrible researchers – infact terrible explorers, businessmen, managers – anything. We need enterprise for this, but I think the present enterprises have become so big, they are approaching overload in terms of true flair.
    I’m still not convinced about the problem of green only being the people’s fault, though. I accept your basic point, but what we want is based upon our culture. He who controls the culture controls our choice. If we’re only offered a spend spend spend culture, we’ll eventually believe that’s the only way. And that’s the only real choice Big Biz run media offers.

    • Ah, but Tony, why is it that Big Biz only offers a “spend” choice? Because We buy it.

      Time was, at least in America, when the media offered far less prescribed choices. For example, a couple of decades ago, you could get news that was constructively critical of government or corporate policies, rather than the current mix of blind support, senseless slamming, or total disregard (all Dancing With The Stars, all the time). While We had the choice, We increasingly supported the Jerry Springers of the world, not the Walter Cronkites. Whether this was a true choice or a Pavlovian trained-response one is rather a chicken-egg question. I happen to think it was a free-will choice (which, of course ;), supports my contention that it is We who are the authors of our distress ). Whichever, now no media outlet can make money with anything but National Enquirer-style “news”.

      For all of that, I would not subscribe to the notion that ‘the problem of green is only the people’s fault.’ After all, Biz could have chosen to promote
      ‘right’ behavior instead of exploiting Our apparent preference for ‘wrong’ behavior for profit. But I resist the modern tendency to point the finger of blame at anyone but ourselves and yell ‘They did it.’ That way, I think, lies danger.

  6. Ohhhhhhhh you two have had GREAT fun with this topic! I’m just enjoying the banter!

  7. Have you noticed we’re moving closer together 😉
    I agree that blaming others is always a danger. Assuming this applies across the board, if a corporate director said it’s the people’s fault ‘cos we just give them what they want, then that also becomes a danger.
    Yes, i accept we DO buy, but again I say our choices are limited by what is offered. We have free will within that context. But we tend to fall in line with symbols – propaganda, advertising, call it what you will. On the other hand, there is a natural tendency for a hierarchy to produce a controlling powerbase. This devalues free will in the rest.
    Doesn’t this mean that the corporations must not be let off the hook? If they are, the powerbase increases, and the parameters for free will decline even further.

  8. Tony — there are some of us, like Amoeba and I, who say, “Enough!” and turn off the TV and turn off the money spiggot and abstain from supporting any of the choices available because they aren’t the right choices. If more people would do that, business would adapt to us. They’d have no choice.

    If people could learn to live with their needs rather than their wants, this would be much easier, but the Bible analogy to people as sheep is very apt. Most of us are content to follow the lead sheep — this one named Business — and leap wherever it leaps without thought.

  9. […] back, the Dudes related the story of the global trash pile. How each person, on average, generates twice as much trash today as 50 years ago, but, in order […]

  10. […] for the world to go back to the energy (measured as trash) levels of 1960, each of Us has to use one third less than we’re using today. And that’s not good enough to significantly derail AGW. Translation: park your car and throw […]

  11. […] freezing, abandoning all air conditioning, and otherwise reducing my carbon footprint by 2013 to one-fourth of that footprint in 2011 …’ Du-uuuuuuuude!! Are you nuts?!? How the hell’m I supposed to do Facebook if ya […]

  12. […] “Listen up, meathead. The average American generates twice as much trash today as his counterpart in 1960. There are twice as many of us now. In order for us to break even with the trash load of 1960, each […]


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