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On the necessity of ecological change
and ways too achieve such change
Some thoughts after reading "Locating the energy for change: An introduction to appreciative inquiry":


There appear to be two basic questions,
(1) is change needed? and
(2) what change is needed?

A discussion of these two questions leads to the rather unusual approach that change should not be envisioned but rather be the reinforcement of innate human qualities.

The most basic innate quality is the one that we share with all other creatures, that is the desire to survive as a species. It is this innate drive that leads us to procreate and to protect our young and thus care for both their and our own future. This includes the protection of our environment.

Is change needed?

Energy-efficiency is an almost universal principle of life. People and other life forms prefer simple solutions that require little effort. Why climb a tree to pluck an apple if a ripe one is waiting in the grass to be picked up in the grass?

The same "least effort" principle applies to mental work. A change of habits requires a mental effort, mental energy. So why should one want to change thoughts or habits if one feels at ease the way things are?

So this tendency to satisfy one's needs (and wants) with the least effort leads to a kind of "natural" resistance to change.


There is also a "societal" resistance to change, one that is cultivated by authority. Every creature strives for a reasonable place to live, which is as safe as possible.

This requirement of survival and safety is originally met by the the parents. Since the parents know the rules and dangers of life, the best strategy for the young is to obey and to copy the behaviour of parents and older members of the community. This natural tendency normally prevails until the young is big enough to live on its own.

In nature, animals exert authority only in as far as it is required to protect the offspring against dangers.

In human civilisation, authority and power wielding - often called "education" or "upbringing" - has become a function of societal goals that exceed the original requirements.

The upbringing of the human young is almost always a continuous and mostly successful effort to break the natural "own willpower" of the young being. The young more or less adapts to authority.

But the innate desire for independence is not eliminated, it has just been subdued. Therefore, as soon as the young human feels strong and big enough, it will start disobeying, at first its parents and then the authorities and society in general. It will break the rules whenever it sees fit without to much risk for negative consequences.

The "civilised" human has learnt to hand over its autonomy to authority. Along goes the handing over of responsibility for one's own actions.

Therefore, if an authority is pointing out that a certain change is needed, the first reaction is resistance. The second reaction is that it is not one's own responsibility.

People recognise, of course, that quite a number of societal situations clearly require change, for a variety of reasons and depending on the standpoint of the observer. But this does not mean that one has to change oneself. The most energy-efficient option is if someone else changes. "They", the others, are the problem. I'm fine. I am doing what I can. If "they" would change things would become better.

What change is needed?

Along with upbringing and education goes an insidious indoctrination by the thoughts of the elders: people behave like their parents, think like their clan. The higher up the social career ladder, the more people become adapted to prodominant thought patterns. This has a major influence on their opinions regarding the kind of change that may be required.

But our upbringing has also significantly reduced our capacity to be open to non-conformist or unusal perspectives. We tend to think as if we look at the world through coloured glasses.

Together with the almost innate resistance to change this means that our perception of different change options is also quite restricted.

We are biased. We have preconceived answers that would require deeper reflection in order to get better or correct answers.

Change towards sustainability

The determination of the kind of change that is needed for sustainability, however, requires a maximum openess to the scope of our civilisatory problems and to possible remedies. One has to discuss which "problems" are basic, influencing our survival, and which are a civilisatory layer of pseudo problems only.

The distribution of wealth is such a pseudo problem. Ultimately our planet does not at all care whether it succumbs to environmental depletion in a just or in an unjust society. Whether all humans have the same income and expenditures, or whether one fifth of humanity consumes four fifths of all resources, it does not make the slightest difference to the planet. Our total pressure on the environment equals the number of humans multiplied by their individual consumption.

This is not to say that a more democratic and just distribution of resources would not contribute to alleviate the environmental problems. There is a synergy between social equity and environmentally sounder behaviour.

An aspect that seems to be a mixture of our tendency to be energy-efficent and our adaptation to authortity is the belief that solutions will be found once real need is there, wehn it becomes really necessary.

Many people believe, for instance, that the energy problem will be solved by new (or even already existing but kept hidden) technologies, when fossil energy really runs out. They think technology will equally solve a host of other problems, such as deforestation, climate change and other forms of depletion and pollution.

Hope, Optimism, Technology

This HOT trio often leads to avoidance of careful analysis and action today, trusting in HOT solutions tomorrow.

Saying that things are more complicated is often a cop-out, meaning that one has to agree but is not willing to admit this. Ecologically, things are extremely simple: The earth is not flat nor endless and each child understands that one cannot keep growing.

The people in power, the compact of Business, Politics and the discipline of Economics, have their reasons and subconscious motives for their obstruction to ecological reason.

The force of habit, subordination to authorities, the need to have a job, religious beliefs, or the lack of courage to do the necessary are some of the factors that prevent change.

Whereas behaviour change is possible on a personal level, one is also embedded in societal structures which make dramatic change often impossible.

A wealthy person could stop consuming resource-intensive goods and services, like cars or golf courses. A normal worker cannot give up his modest apartment and start living under a bridge.

For this reason change has to be political, consciously and democratically decided upon, because of our dramatic overshoot of the earth's carrying capacity and our increasing speeds towards total resource depletion and collapse.

Stop growth

The very first action must be a conscious decision to give up the growth ideology and then stop producing ever more roads and tunnels and cars and gadgets of all kinds. Population growth and economic expansion (GDP growth) are the father of all envionmental problems and increasing scarcities.

Surely this will lead to the demise of whole industries. Many people will have to find work in a restructured economy that produces what is needed, instead of selling what can (still) be produced.


A relocalised, low speed, and low fossil energy society is unavoidable in any case, because of the food and industrial production scarcities that are expected in the imminent post peak oil era.

On the PPO Downslope people will again have to use manual labour for manual tasks in the primary sector, i.e. producing food crops and tending animal husbandry, ecologically.

We will have to do what is environmentally neccessary, rather than what seems to be politically possible.

We should follow our basic instinct to procreate and care for our progenity, whilst using our intellectual capacities and determination to do the right thing.

Helmut Lubbers, May 2005 and December 2011

This article was sparked by an Emaildiskussion von Ende Januar 2005 (5123):

Helmut: Am 7. Januar 2005 war ich beinem wissenschaftlichen Vortrag über die Verkehrsentwicklung in China. Auf einer Graphik der IAE International Energy Agency wurde die Ölförderung immer noch als "Produktion" bezeichnet. Und das vorausgesagte scharfe Auseinanderklaffen von Förderung und Verbrauch ab etwa 2010 etwa wurde von Vortragenden auch nicht kommentiert.

Ich kam mir vor wie auf einer voyeuristischen Veranstaltung, wo man klatscht wegen des dargebotenen aber ohne die Herstellung eines Bezuges zur eigenen Wirklichkeit.

Als ich dann die Frage stellte, ob dass nicht Angst mache, bekam ich von zwei Teilnehmern, in meinem Alter etwa, die lapidäre Antwort:
"Der Mensch sei nun einmal so. Man könn nichts ändern."

Ein wahrlichliches Todesurteil, ausgesprochen von Männern, die die Gefahren also erkannten.

Reto: Ich denke schon, man muss den Menschen nehmen, so wie er heute funktioniert und dann schauen, wie man das beste daraus machen kann. Ihn zuerst umerziehen, das wollten schon andere, das Resultat war vernichtend und nicht nachahmenswert. Ich denke, wenn man bei allem das möglich macht, dann ist schon mehr gemacht als man denkt. In diesem Sinne bin ich relativ zuversichtlich, aber man muss dran bleiben...

Viele Grüsse Reto

Change theories (ref. change theories 30 OCT 2002

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