Slow Environmental Progress

Actually, stop and reverse production in oil and other environmental impacts.

“Erinaceous” on Reddit, a very intelligent person, left a rather grim forecast of sorts.

Here’s part of it, with a link to the whole comment directly.  If you can read all of this and NOT want to reverse progress, I don’t know what else to say:

The only low hanging fruit left is degrowth and conservation[1] . Any growth paradigm, even a 100% renewable paradigm leads to overshoot and isn’t remotely possible within our time frame. To stay below 450 ppm/carbon in the atmosphere would require a 130 fold improvement in dollar GDP per gram carbon of emissions. Given that anything that costs a dollar represents roughly 7 MJ of energy there’s basically no way to make those numbers square unless we stop growing the economies and working on poverty reduction, relocalization, ecological agroforestry, rebuilding soil and working less.

That’s kind of the interesting part actually. The way we get out of this mess is by having more time and economies based around art, culture and the humanities ie. the parts of culture that can produce value with very little energy inputs.

What’s the alternative to oil? Local food production based around perennial vegetables and tree crops would require very little energy input and produce as much nutrition per acre as energy intensive agriculture. Plus it would build soil and sequester carbon. This seems like a no brainer. The 500 km salad is gone. I mean it’s gone anyways when oil tops 160-190$/bbl.

Kill the military. The military uses more oil that the entire civilian domestic consumption. Getting rid of that buys us a few years.

The whole comment is here.

“Slow” Is Not An Excuse

I touched on this in the Manifesto, but here is a deeper explanation of what I mean when I say “slow is not an excuse to/for __________.”

Because I started a blog before I actually published this book, I’ve already gotten email questions like:

  • “Joe, won’t ‘going slow’ mean a lack of productivity?”
  • “Joe, isn’t this an excuse to be lazy, or an excuse not to get stuff done?”
  • “Joe, I don’t want to be one of those people who is thought of as a ‘slowpoke’… so how can I implement the principles of Slow?”

And variations of these types of concerns.

They are valid concerns, for sure… but slow isn’t an excuse to use, it’s more of a mindset behind living more deliberately, more consciously, more critically

… instead of rushing to the next thing in the interest of some society-imposed notion we all have to produce as much as we can, as many as we can, or as quickly as we can.

And that mindset can be extrapolated to mean many things.  For example, as it applies to upgrading your technology it can mean thinking and being aware of your need to upgrade, instead of upgrading for the sake of upgrading (or worse because everyone else is doing it, for those Apple fans out there).

It can apply to making products, striving for quality (slow) versus quantity or “mass produced for the masses” (not slow).

And on, and on…

Slow isn’t an excuse for anything, it’s not something you choose to “not do”… instead it’s a methodology, a mindset, for “doing” at a pace where you’re in complete control of the outcome (not marketing, society, emotions etc…).

Be in control of your thinking, eating, upgrading, manufacturing, political views, etc… and don’t let them control you.  To do that, slow down.

THAT is what slow is.

Genuine Connection

I suppose if there was only one overriding principle I have for writing this book “The Slow Manifesto”… it’s to once again encourage genuine connection between humans.

Genuine connection doesn’t solve all problems, it’s a tall challenge, and requires a MAJOR rethinking of some of our Western traditions, but I think it’s worth it.

And, I like tackling big problems. 🙂

So, I think slow technology is a good thing.  I like progress, so long as it’s focused, useful for the world, and has minimal side effects for society as a whole.

One side effect of digital technology, for example, is that I see it taking our genuine connections and reducing them down to bite sized “if I have time for it” interactions.

Some might challenge:

“But yeah, I have complete control of the technology I use, and can form genuine relationships when I choose.”

Could you do better if you honestly analyzed your use of technology and focused on deeper and more genuine connection?

In short, no trade off… no “control” of technology needed, you instead focus on deepening your personal, face to face relationships… and completely push the use of your smart phone, the Internet, your tablet etc… into the background?

Now how does that “form genuine relationships when I choose” sound?  A little different?

And, I’m not, nor would I ever suggest you never use digital technology.  In fact, all I’m suggesting is it never becomes your primary focus, that you’re genuine in your claim that you’re in control of it.

Because most people, aren’t.  I thought I was until my “awakening” of sorts back in March 2011.  I won’t bore you with the details of the awakening itself, but as for my “control” of the use of technology…

Not.  Even. Close.

I was online into the wee hours of the night, justifying any use of down time with hours plugging away online… and as Twitter really skyrocketed into popularity, as was Facebook, then Google Plus… let’s just say I was just controlling how many minutes I spent on each.

Not focusing on how much time I spent with the family, my wife, etc…  Granted, we didn’t have problems, and we were both using technology about the same way, but once we focused on genuine connection, our family life got even better.

Have you ever stopped to look at the birds?  Not glance at them just to “check it off a list” mind you, but truly stop and look at what kinds of birds fly around your area?

I found quite a few varieties.

Have you ever stopped to think about the gifts we’ve already been given?  Have you ever enjoyed them?  Not just once, or twice, but as a regular part of your life?

This isn’t some “checklist item” that you complete to say “I did it!”… no… this is a lifelong process of celebrating your being a human.

Now, what about connecting with other humans… genuine connection?

Genuine connection defined:  a connection with another human being where you can comfortably share the intimate details (not necessarily sexual) of your life, and not feel embarrassed.  This person reciprocates that same relationship.

Obviously, it’s an interesting challenge to have 1500 genuine connections of that nature, right?

Social networks seem to promote “connection” with other people, but I would qualify that as a superficial connection at first.  Bits and bytes that say you’re “connected.”

I think we’ve come to a point where the “genuine” part is being eroded away, not completely mind you, because we will always have close friends and family (if you’re close to your family).

I think “genuine” connection is a much harder place to get to these days, because of the time and energy (and priority) we’re placing on maintaining the more superficial connections.  Some might say this has always been the case when new technologies are created (like the telephone, for example)… but I challenge that by saying we have those technologies AND the new ones coming available.

I’m speaking in the sheer volume of ways to connect.  The number of choices we have to communicate leaves us texting each other when we’re only 50 feet away from each other, for example.

Or, worse… we start prioritizing our connections to fit as many of them as possible into what amounts to a small time frame.

Where is the time to create and develop a genuine connection if you are stuffing emails, texts, phone calls, and all of the little bits of communication into the same 8, 10, 14 or even 20 hours we all have in a day?  (20 hours for those that don’t sleep much)

If those texts, emails, phone calls etc… all were focused on one connection with someone, this could be a good way to use technology to foster genuine connection.  But come on now, tell me you do that?

Where does your multitude of daily communications take you?  Not towards one, or two people… and the relationship with them… but towards many different conversations, being made shorter because people have more ways to reach us.

(BTW, just because they have more ways to reach us, doesn’t mean we have to respond to those ways to reach us, but that’s for another post, or perhaps another chapter in the book)

So, let’s use a “get more out of less” approach here…

Let’s take each conversation, and relax, slow down, and deepen the connections we have.

Let’s focus on those relationships we want to build, but not limit those relationships to texts and Tweets.  Have lunch, make it an hour instead of 30 minutes, eat slowly… and most importantly talk face to face instead of in bits and bytes.

Because the next genuine connection could reward you with the richest experience life has to offer.  I hope you get to enjoy as many of these as possible.

On Digital Liberty

We need to slow down as a society, that much is in the manifesto located right on this website.

One of the reasons we need to slow down, think critically, and slow technology down to get our heads out of our gadgets is because as I write this our liberties… that is the freedoms we hold dear in this country… are being eroded away.

It’s all explained in a piece I wrote which got published in The Daily Reckoning titled “The New Face Of Liberty In The Digital Age.”

Another version of the same piece also got published in Laissez-Faire Today with the original title “On Digital Liberty.”  I would recommend you read this version if you would like the links I included to other related stories on the web.

Either way, it’s time to slow down, and reclaim our Liberties.

disclaimer:  Agora Financial, the company that publishes both of the newsletters linked to above, is a client