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Why it is helpful to Reduce the Reduce in the Big Rs (1790 words)


Sustainability Principle of Energy


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From the Sustainability Principle we get:


"The more we accept change the greater the harmony we know. The more we deny change the greater the misery we know."



“To the extent we are Mirror Beings (our brains are laced with mirror neuron systems) and we have an ability to mirror the world around us, we are stewards of our actions – whether we like it or not."    


“Actions speak louder than words because they form symbols that reveal and evoke the vast wordless world within in each of us.”



“Symbols are crystallised information and without them there is no civilisation.”



“ If we have no symbol for a form of energy then its potential cannot be manifest."





Link here
 to a list of 
sustainable uses of key symbols - including

energy energy efficiency
global warming

Peak Oil
exponential growth








My Cottage as a Beacon of Hope during Earth Hour 2009

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? 

An explanation 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. 

A little 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. 

I have written extensively elsewhere of the addictive behaviour that is so prevalent in our Anglo-American culture. I will summarise it with one profound example.  

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 flourish.   

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 fuels. 

The psychology of these corporations is simple to understand and it is dangerous. Basically they generate and prey on fear and ignorance. 

Their psychology 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 bankers control. 

This wilful 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. 

The psychology here is clear for all those who care to understand it:

  • In this situation “energy” and “power”, in other words the universe or existence, is declared the problem. We are encouraged to deny the reality that it is our use of a resource that is our problem.
  • The “energy efficiency” and “conservation” symbols are associated with deprivation and “using less”.
  • The addictive use of the resource is sustained so that people will continue to use Bulk-generated electrical products in an addictive way when the rains come again and supply matches demand for another period.
  • The average citizen incurs the costs of the demand-supply imbalance, not the bankers of the corporations.

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. 

Another potent 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 r.  

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.

We can become Inspired to employ our Intelligence so we can Increase our use of resources so we remain Inclusive of all options and Integrated and Inharmony with the universal flows and balances that sustain us.

Posted 17 Feb 2010

Click to read March 2009 Blog

The Sustainability Principle of Energy 
(including the 2007 draft rationale underpinning the principle)

Read the 2009 ESSAY 
introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy

(An easy-to-read illustrated introduction)

VIDEO - The Sustainability Principle of Energy
10 minute Youtube video featuring the great ideas underpinning the principle

The Principle generated  an

Inventory of Sustainable Uses of Key Symbols
(illustrating elements of acceptance/denial of change/stewardship in each symbol use)



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