"BND" (Quakebake Newsletter - Part 3)

----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Haas
To: Robert Haas
Sent: Friday, November 23, 2007 9:57 AM
Subject: " BND" (Quakebake Newsletter - Part 3)

Dear Friends,

I promised you in yesterday's email newsletter a very simple, effective yet startling answer to the question of "How could YOU help stop that gigantic Gibson coal plant from gulping coal at that fantastic rate of 125 tons of coal per minute?".

Actually I gave you the answer already yesterday. Didn't I say you would need to do nothing at all?

Yes, that's right. "do nothing", or more specific "buy nothing", because the less we buy, the less we consume. Consuming less will lead to less production, which consequently will be followed by a reduction of energy needs.

You may be by now starting to shake your head in disbelief, asking yourself, how I could come up with such nonsense. How could you and me and a few other lone souls reading this newsletter here in New Zealand, cause a humongous power plant in the US to cease burning coal?

Well, that's right, we personally couldn't achieve that in such a simple manner. But if you look at it in a bigger picture, it may not seem such a fantastic solution, because we wouldn't be alone actually.

The subject line of this email newsletter reads "BND", and that stands for "Buy Nothing Day". For the fifteenth time this will be celebrated throughout the world tomorrow on the 24 November 2007 as an annual reminder against consumerism. It started as one man's idea in Canada in 1992. Ironically this man Ted Dave of Vancouver was working in the advertising industry at the time.

Now millions of people "buy nothing", to make a symbolic statement, because it is not about not consuming anything. These people will still consume food, drink, clothing, shelter, whatever they need for their lives, but they won't buy it on the "Buy Nothing Day". It is a statement against excess, excessive consumption of resources for the pleasure of consuming.

Do you consume excessively? Do I consume excessively? Well, it is a rather personal question isn't it? How big a car do we need, how old should our computers, fridges, TV's etc. be before we replace them? Do we all need a cellphone, a laptop or an ipod?

Rest assured, I don't have the answers for you, but I felt it justified to invite you to think about such questions. Why not use tomorrow's "Buy Nothing Day", to reflect for a moment on what makes us really happy.

Have your parents, your grandparents been all that unhappy and unsatisfied because they didn't own a colour TV, couldn't use the Internet, couldn't call you instantly on the cellphone with an attached cellphone photo, to tell you that granny slipped on a banana skin right now...?

I think we can all agree, that there is a lot of instant gratification going on today. We buy to be happy, when in fact this might rather lead to the opposite.

Keeping up with the Joneses by buying a bigger car, a bigger house etc. raises debt, credit card, and mortgage levels. These liabilities might be turning into towering nightmares robbing us of our sleep.

Yet the solution described above is so simple.

Many years ago, there was a famous writer in Germany (Kurt Tucholsky, 1890-1935), who in the 1920's said something along these lines: "Isn't it amazing how lucky we are and how happy a life we can have without all the inventions of the 21st century."

I'm inclined to believe this man. Kurt Tucholsky fled in 1930 a Germany ripe with the Nazis, in disbelief, that the Germans could watch the rise of the Nazis unchecked and unopposed. Kurt Tucholsky died in Sweden in 1935.

My personal experience is, that I would rather go dancing with my partner or have some nice yummy food and things like that, than spend money on the latest ipod.

But besides the question of how happy consuming makes us, there is also the impact our consuming has on the world.

That is why I wrote about the water lily and the lake in Part 1. Wasn't the water lily growing along quite happily, until that one last day, when all of a sudden she had no more room for more expansion.

The same is true for us humans. We don't grow on a lake, but we use the world's resources, and they too will come to an end one day. Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and hopefully they will be around for more hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions of years.

Yet, when the last drop of crude oil will be burnt, it will only have been for the benefit of a few generations of humans, of which we are part of by no other merit, than being born at the appropriate time. All up, probably no more than 200 years of plentiful oil and the fun of burning it. Hmm, not very considerate for future generations, is it? Let alone all the pollution we cause on the way.

Other resources will last us longer, but not forever! So, when do you reckon, we should start being a little more conscious of our own impact? Assuming that we all agree, that we are going over the top with our life's demands at the moment.

In case you think we are not over stretching the resources of the planet at the moment, then there are three things to be kept in mind. To start with, one of the findings of the Stern Review for the British government was, that around 70% of global carbon emissions since 1850 were solely produced by the people living in North America and Europe. This means so far only a minority of the world population caused the emissions. But now the world faces the enormous economic growth rates in densely populated countries in parts of Asia and America in recent years (China, India, Brazil, Indonesia....). They are not only catching up with our standard of living, but also with our level of carbon emissions.

Add to this picture the UN forecasts, which state the world population is to grow to more than 9 billion humans, a predicted increase of about 50%, in the next 40 years.

Good on anyone, who thinks screwing in another energy saving light bulb will help us not screwing up the planet. They would be a prime candidate to believe that buying a hybrid car for tens of thousands of dollars is a good idea. The buyer of such a car needs to create tens of thousands of dollars of economic activity in whatever form, to be able to spend that money on the car, which needs to be produced from scarce resources.

Producing the car will pollute the world; using the car will still pollute the world; the economic activity needed to earn the money to buy the car will pollute the world; when in fact a healthier option for the buyer of the car might have been walking or cycling or using a bus; or keeping the old car a little longer because he didn't drive EVERYEWHERE but used it sensibly, and hence made the car last a few extra years....

In my opinion, we are not changing much for the better by consuming more. The above mentioned energy saving light bulb and hybrid car are just more to consume, even though they are better products. Only the more intelligent use of such better products will make a difference.

Getting rid of a few excess items, which haven't made us happier so far, might also be a good idea.

But could you and I really make a difference? Is the grassroot approach of a "Buy Nothing Day" really working?

Well, I'm inclined to say flippantly "Does the pope wear a hat?".

If we look back in human history at rapid changes in society which occurred at times, then there have been outstanding and brilliant leaders galvanising people into action. But when you come to think of it, a Mahatma Gandhi in the late 1940's in India would not have ended the British rule by marching peacefully on his own.

So, don't wait for someone better than poor old Al Gore to come along to tell us.

It's us, it's today, and we should get on with it. Consuming less is a very good start. It won't cost you time and money. It might even improve your health and happiness. Be your own leader, or as sports wear manufacturer Nike says: "Just do it" (or should I rather say "Just don't do it"?)

As a token of goodwill, you will find my eshop closed tomorrow (and I won't even apologise for any inconvenience which might be caused ;-).

Kind regards

Robert Haas
Quakebake Ltd.

PS: You want to read, hear and see (youtube video clips) more about the "Buy Nothing Day"? Then go to http://ecoplan.org/ibnd/ and http://www.culturejammers.org.au/site/ and http://adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/.

PPS: It might have puzzled you the other day, when I sent out that email newsletter "How to turn a cup of coffee into $10,000", I did that rather cheekily with the hope to encourage a little less consumption today, and the further hope that the funds build up won't be used on senseless spending sometime in the future. By then I trust more people will understand what's best. Actually, soon I will have another (hopefully insightful) email newsletter about a similar topic (hire purchase).

PPPS: Furthermore in 30 years time, when the temperatures will be that little bit higher, and the waves lapping that little bit higher up our shores, one can tell one's grandchildren nice stories* from one's past, instead of raving on about the latest SUV one got back then.

*) Hmh maybe something like this: "Did I ever tell you, how your mum fell over our Bokashi Compost Bucket one day, taking a nose dive into our little garden pond with the gold fish, taking all the sun-ripened strawberries that she had just freshly picked off our own strawberry plants with her?".

It is the ordinary which do the extraordinary. (Extraordinary people do extraordinary things, but that would be ordinary, wouldn't it?)

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