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The stop-what-you’re-doing principle March 7, 2007

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Environment, Politics, rant, Society, Sustainable Living.

We are busy destroying the world. Global warming, environmental decimation, pollution, wars without end, unsustainable extraction of non-renewable resources and species extinctions are wrecking our planet. This is not news. We all know this, but we seem incapable of stopping the carnage.

Now I don’t know about you, but if after naively experimenting with sticking my arm elbow-deep into a running meat mincer, I realised that I had made a potentially fatal mistake, my first reaction would not be to ask a doctor to give me an anaesthetic to numb the pain. Nor would I employ an engineer to design a fancy do-hickey that will make the meat grinder work at a more bearable speed and intensity.

My first reaction would be to pull my arm out of the mincer. I would simply stop whatever I was doing that was causing me pain. It’s the stop-what-your-doing principle. Its easy, cheap and has immediate effect.

So why don’t we just apply this simple principle to our current predicament regarding human-induced global mayhem and destruction? We know pretty much exactly how we are killing our environment – why don’t we simply stop what we’re doing, even just for a moment to think things over?

One of the reasons is that my arm-shredding analogy isn’t quite appropriate. In reality, we are more akin to the addict who knows that the substances he is imbibing and injecting are ruining his life and killing him. Of course, he is so psychologically and physiologically dependent on the stuff that he can’t imagine living without it.

The only real solution to the addict’s problems is to go cold turkey – to stop doing what he’s doing. We are addicted to oil and to consumption for the sake of consumption and to growing profits and to an ever expanding “economy” and those are ultimately the underlying reasons for the poor prognosis on the health of our planet.

Call me a Luddite, but I think what we should do is to stop what we’re doing at least to give ourselves the chance to reconsider our options.

I’m not saying that there aren’t possibly some “technological” solutions to some of our problems. Quite the opposite, human ingenuity and imagination will be crucial if we’re ever going to get ourselves out of this mess, but while the house is on fire, can we at least stop fanning the flames, please!?

Now I reckon its great that more and more of us eat organic food, use bicycles whenever possible and install energy saving light bulbs. That’s a start, but it’s not a final solution, because our dilemma is systemic.

We, not just as individuals, but as a society, as a civilisation, need to stop what we’re doing, because it’s the very basis of our way of life that’s at the heart of the problem. And yes, I am going to use the c-word here: capitalism is destroying the planet. Capitalism, the myth of endless growth, the commodification of everything, the globalisation of corporate empires, the military reach of the last remaining super-power, the belief in might-is-right and the political neutralisation of individuals and viable communities through a corrupt system of so-called representative so-called democracy.

Lets stop doing all that and talk about alternatives for a better world.



1. ggwfung - March 9, 2007

I’ll vote one for Andreas. The problems I see it, are these:

1) car addiction – let’s see what happens when the last drop of oil is sucked out of the ground

2) coal addiction – it’s cheap and nasty. Dig it out of the ground (almost anywhere in the world) and chuck it into a fire. Bingo – electricity. Too easy.

The change in the mind, in attitude, comes first and the rest will follow.

Governments do respond to public pressure, to a change in opinion polls – that is up to every one of us individuals to change our own minds.


2. David Kritzinger - March 14, 2007

While I admire the sentiment, you’re ignoring the practicalities in search of an ideal. If the world went “cold-turkey” and stopped using oil, gas and coal the world economy would collapse as would most of our infrastructure.

With oil and coal and gas gone, most our our electrical capacity would disappear overnight and the meager amount left over (being generated by nuclear or hydro power) would most likely be directed to hospitals and essential services. This would mean an end to the internet, TV and long-distance travel. With those gone, researchers would no longer be able to share research and we would effectively be plunged back into the 1800’s. Without these, food crops would no longer be able to be kept fresh or transported long distance which would lead to massive amounts of famine in any country that relies heavily or even moderately on food imports. Our sewage and water systems would all cease functioning leading to massive health issues.

Certainly our current rate of change is far too slow – big governments need to incentivise fuel-cell technology and hydrogen powered vehicles, but to suggest we just give up oil in one fell swoop is lunacy.

3. Andreas - March 14, 2007

David, I’m not suggesting that we just simply stop everything, sit in a corner and wait to die of hunger, thirst or exposure. The stop-what-you-are doing principle should be applied with much creativity and flexibility.

Some things we could stop doing right now, like even thinking about building an aluminium smelter at Coega (https://theantidote.wordpress.com/2007/01/16/aluminium-smelter-in-the-eastern-cape/) or selling stupid, break-within-hours toys with our kiddies meals.

In some cases we could simply start to think about how we can stop doing what we’re doing that harms our world – like using fossil fuels and nuclear energy (put that on in just for you 😉 ).

And some things we could stop doing for at least a little while (like shopping for a day or a week) just to feel what it’s like or to use the time to work out better ways of doing things.


4. ekokym - February 28, 2008

Why is it an assumption that to “stop what we’re doing” we have to be stupid about it? I truly believe there are enough fabulously intelligent people out there who are providing solutions to our interminable problems! Take a look at the air car as an example – http://www.theaircar.com. Like you say with some creativity and flexibility there is much we can achieve – IF WE WANT TO . . .

And therein lies the rub, how many of us truly want to change? Perhaps we will see more people wanting to change as petrol prices soar out of control and we see the impact on our pockets. But one day perhaps we will see people wanting to change purely because the sky is still blue and the grass is still green and we really do need to keep it that way if the human race wants to avoid extinction.

5. Nathan Stewart - April 3, 2008

Our government as a monopoly

I like the stop-what-your-doing philocophy, however, i do agree with David that it is almost physically imposible to completely stop what we are doing for long periods of time. With the growing monopoly of the oil companies maybe we need to take a different approach to your stop-what-your-doing ideals.

The health of our planet is obviously important, but deffinately going to be a bigger problem to change. The problem i look at is the economy that we so mindlessly enjoy, it’s not doing well. With gas pricing growing to record prices we have to start thinking, somebody is getting rich, and it isn’t the hard working majority.

At our current rate the world uses over 80 million barrels of oil for one day. All the world needs is a spark. Does the Boston Tea party ring any one’s bells. When the taxation got to be too much the people did something about it. The people of this new world, due to growing in wealth and economy, would rather sit back and watch it dwindle into pieces rather than doing anything about it.

Back to my point, however, what we as a people need to do is stick it to the people who are sticking it to us. We need to stop-what-we-are-doing for lets say one day. Lets say we get 70% of the united states to not use gasoline for one day. Thats simple, don’t drive. It is amazing how much of an impact that can make on oil companies, and our own government that are making out like bandits on our hard earned dimes.

As a government that was created by 12 men, for the people by the people, the people should have some say. Reality, we don’t have a say. We can vote, yes, but how many people in this world vote somebody into office that acctually believe that person will make a change? Voting has become about electing the lesser of the idiots, so that we can only screw our governement up less. Alright sure there are straight politicians in this world, but when you throw a little rock into a big pond does any one notice? In my opinion if we the people can’t do anything to change it, enevidably there will be another revolution.

We MUST make a big splash, a reality check, to the people who enjoy so much screwing us over to their advantage. Make them remember who pays for their Benz. Make them change!

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