on the Big Rs
RRR. It is
time to Reflect on the “Big Rs”. Participants at the World Economic
Forum in Davos in 2010 have just resolved to “Rethink, Redesign
and Rebuild the global economy”. WWF (Earth Hour) and other
“environmental” groups are exhorting us to show we care by turning
off our lights i.e. Reduce, Reduce, Reduce…
Walk down the
corridors of many schools in New Zealand and you will see the Big R
posters crafted by our children under the guidance of caring teachers.
Commonly they simply read Recycle Reuse Reduce and our children
may have chanted them as “the Three Big Rs”. Some posters may
evidence more advanced thinking and have the Four Big Rs such as Redesign
Recycle Reuse Reduce or Recycle Reuse Reduce Restore.
We see variations
on these themes in our universities, media and environmental agencies.
We are exhorted to Reduce our use of carbon and Recreate a “low carbon
economy”, if not a “zero carbon economy”. We are exhorted to turn
off our lights and save energy and use less power. Reduce. Reduce.
Reduce. Meanwhile we continue to ignore sustainable uses of wonderful
resources while destroying other vital resources at an escalating rate.
What is going on? What enables such maladaptive behaviour?
may be found in the Big Rs. It makes sense to Recycle and Reuse
resources. There are now 6.7 billion human beings on the planet and all
resources are finite. Almost every use involves some degradation of the
resource and when we disperse fossil fuels into the air and precious
minerals into dumps they are effectively gone for eons. We even have the
capacity to pollute the fresh water of our planet beyond use. Thus it is
helpful to Redesign our use of resources so as to conserve them. In some
cases where we have destroyed some of the vital flows and balances that
sustain humanity our Redesign needs to include provisions for Restoring
them. All this is can be symbolised as “energy efficiency” or the
wise sustaining use of resources.
Reflection Reminds you that I have omitted one the most fundamental Big
Rs – the one the appears on almost every poster – the Reduce symbol.
This omission is very deliberate because I believe all the other Big Rs
are sustaining long-term practices. However the notion of continual
Reducing can only have one consequence: the increasing experience of
deprivation. Ultimately we become anorexic as a species and die out. The
fatally flawed notion of continually Reducing is a reflection of a deep
addictive element in our culture.
have written extensively elsewhere of the addictive behaviour that is so
prevalent in our Anglo-American culture. I will summarise it with one
Over the last
century we have redefined the “energy” symbol and equated it with
two resources in particular – fossil fuels and Bulk-generated
electrical products. We have also equated the “energy”, “power”,
“electricity” and “Bulk-generated electrical products” symbols
with each other. This is a total denial of the Conservation Principle of
Energy, the nearest we have to a natural law. We deny both its essential
messages of the bounteous nature of energy and its continually
transforming. To confuse a resource with energy is the most fatal error
we can make. Everything unravels in unsustainable ways from that
fundamental error. Greed, fear, deprivation and misery necessarily
The reason we become at high risk of experiencing great misery and extinguishing civilisation is simple. This denial of Conservation Principle of Energy represents a fundamental denial of the reality of existence (bounteous energy continually transforming). Our minds construct symbolic representations of the universe in which individual forms are experienced as the totality of existence. The mind contains no image of alternative forms that we can use as resources. We become oblivious to myriad options and do not develop the language to enable them. As we consume more and more of these mis-valued individual resources we are filled with a sensation of less and less. We become locked into a cycle of increasing deprivation.
An example of the
process that I often give is the establishment of the “energy” and
“power” corporations of New Zealand – Meridian Energy, Contact
Energy, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy, TrustPower, Mighty River Power,
Transpower etc in the latter decades of the 20th Century. The
reality is that these social constructs are no more “energy” or
“power” corporations than any other corporation. All human use of
resources involves the use of energy, which can be measured as power.
The afore-mentioned corporations are really just manufacturers of
Bulk-generated electrical products and traders of these and/or fossil
The psychology of
these corporations is simple to understand and it is dangerous.
Basically they generate and prey on fear and ignorance.
is easily comprehended if you understand the 101 of modern PR theory.
This teaches that it is good marketing practice to develop “product
loyalty” so people become to believe your product is more vital and
essential than other products and so they will consume your product
maximally. An oligarchy of merchant bankers who control most of the
global trade of fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products have
taken this practice to the extreme. They have commandeered in most
psychopathic way two of the most potent symbols in the Anglo-American
culture – the “power” and “energy” symbols and have
re-engineered them in complete denial of the Conservation Principle of
Energy. They have associated these vital symbols with their products so
completely that most people cannot imagine the existence of equally
valuable and even more sustaining products.
This behaviour of
the oligarchy can be described as psychopathic for it evidences no
compassion for their fellow human beings. They do not care that humanity
is put at great risk of war, famine and disease by such actions. We each
have some role in this process for without constant self-vigilance our
institutions can easily become manifestations of the elements of
psychopathy that reside in each of us.
People in our Anglo-American culture tend to associate the “energy” and “power” symbols with enormous bounty and force. Thus our association of these symbols with particular products means we tend to underprice and use these products as though they are practically limitless resources. Most of our transport, manufacturing and other vital systems are built on a valuation of mineral oil of $$US25 a barrel. Each 42 gallon barrel contains the energy equivalent of nearly 25000 manhours of labour. This equates to a valuation of 0.1 cents per manhour of labour.
This is evidence
of great psychosis, for the reality is all forms are limited and very
transient. We become conditioned to Reject reality, which is that all
forms are transient and that there are many other wonderful forms we can
use as resources besides these few that the oligarchy of merchant
promotion of addictive behaviour goes deeper. On some occasions the
demand for resources such as mineral oil or Bulk-generated electrical
products outstrips the capacity of the corporations to supply them. An
example was in 2001 and 2003 in New Zealand when low rainfall reduced
the capacity of the corporations to manufacture products using their
large-scale hydro-electrical plant. The corporations began nationwide
campaigns proclaiming an “energy crisis” existed with the high risk
of “power outages” if people did not adopt “energy efficiency”
practice. Politicians panicked and approved millions of dollars of extra
funding for the NZ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (a
profoundly flawed notion anyway) to convince New Zealanders to reduce
the risk of the “energy crisis” by adopting energy efficiency
measures and “conserving/using less energy”. Many people responded
by turning off essential heating and using candles for lighting, thus
enduring considerable deprivation. The media lauded these people as
heroes for their actions while failing to identify the root flawed
nature of corporations.
here is clear for all those who care to understand it:
There has not
been a shortfall in the rain in the catchments of the New Zealand
hydro-electrical dams since 2003. However the likes of EECA, WWF (Earth
Hour) and other “environmental care” agencies continue, however
unwittingly, the work of ensuring that energy efficiency or the wise use
of resources is associated with deprivation.
example of this maladaptive behaviour is Carbon Trading. Its psychology
involves demonising carbon and associating the wise use of our carbon
potential with deprivation and Reducing use of carbon. We even have the
Post Carbon Institute with its “Post Carbon Fellows”.
Again this topic
is too extensive to discuss in detail here but it involves exactly the
same addictive behaviour being promoted by the same oligarchy of
merchant bankers. It also involves the phenomenon of very well-meaning
people allowing themselves to become their own worst enemies.
In brief this
hostility to carbon involves denying the wide range of options that we
can enjoy when we use our carbon potential. We tend to associate carbon
with a few forms that the bankers control the trades of. As with the
abuse of our electrical potential we
find well meaning “environment carers” such as the Post Carbon
Institute, Greenpeace etc are the prime agents of the abuse, however
unwittingly. (There are sound reasons why these groups are most
vulnerable to being exploited. It has to do with how humans resolve the
dissonance between their actions and the knowledge.)
To reiterate: the reality,
according to the Conservation Principle of Energy, is that there are a
multitude of carbon forms and flows. The wise use does not involve using
less or more carbon. Rather it involves using carbon in sustainable ways
such that we conserve the balances and flows that sustain us. It is
proven, for instance, that we can make far greater use of the capacity
of carbon forms to transmit electrical products and to store electronic
data, thus reducing our destruction of remaining mineral resources.
These do not necessitate “turning off the lights”.
This call to Reduce Reduce Reduce can be seen as illogical and sick on many other levels:
How arrogant is
it for a rich Anglo-American to tell a person on a starvation diet that
we must use less carbon?
How unhelpful is
it to tell an anorexic person that carbon is bad? How insane is it to
say we must reduce our use of energy when we barely use any of the solar
energy potential of most dwellings in nations like New Zealand.
It seems to me we
need a sharp Reduction in our use of the Reduce symbol. We need to
Reduce our association of it with the other Big Rs by making it a small
I like to think
WWF (World Hour) will Reflect deeply, Revise their ideas, Reject
unsustainable uses of the “energy efficiency symbol and instead adopt
symbol uses that work to Remind us that it is not how much energy we use
but rather that our use of resources results in our continual
Reharmonising of our ways so we conserve the flows and balances that
maximally sustain our existence as a species.
I like to think
our children will learn the Big Rs in this order of importance – Reflection
(in compassion), Reharmonising, Redesigning, Reusing and Recycling.
Thus each generation can be Reminded and Reinvigorated in the
knowledge that we have bountiful options.
Perhaps we should
introduce the notion of the Big Is: Inspiration Intelligence
Increase Inclusive Integration Inharmony.
Posted 17 Feb 2010