Since it’s Friday, I thought I might share a few choice links from around the web which might be of interest to readers of this blog.
First up, is the Guardian Bike Blog, which has emerged at the peak the season for ‘fair-weather cyclists’. It remains to be seen whether the blog will survive into the depths of winter, when only the hardiest, greenest and skintest of travellers continue on two-wheels. But for now at least, it provides remarkably effective therapy for aggrieved city cyclists, inviting readers to share bad experiences and offer safety tips. The “shower in a bottle” post is especially recommended for commuters.
Over at Make Wealth History, the ever-thoughtful Jeremy Williams has written a very good overview of a little-known book by one of nef‘s major heroes, the pioneering economist E.F. Schumacher. Good Work is about harnessing the ‘potential capabilities’ and ‘initiative, imagination, and brainpower’ of human beings, before we become over-reliant on technology. We need not become arch-Luddites in order to see that, as Schumacher recognised, technology is not ‘ideologically neutral’. I’ve heard it said that our society fosters a “prosthetic culture”, a culture in which we purchase objects or machines to stand in the place of our own abilities and capacities. And as anyone who relies on a prosthesis will know, they can be helpful, but you’re much freer if you can do without them in the first place.
Another good critique of technological fixes comes from Merrick Godhaven, commenting on the climate change solutions presented in the Guardian’s Manchester Report. Echoing nef policy director Andrew Simms’ contribution to the Report, Godhaven points out that no amount of technological solutions will change the fact that we need ‘radical economic and social transformation’, the need to move towards a high well-being, low carbon economy that has deprioritised or abandoned the need for growth, and the reality that current levels of consumption, at least in the rich world, cannot continue. Well worth a look.
Finally, I recommend reading Chris Goodall’s article ‘The human brain is made for environmental complacency‘ at openDemocracy. While it initially seems depressing that our species is evolutionary unequipped for what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced, I realised while that making people aware of this fact might, perversely, help them to take action. It’s a bit like being made aware of what psychologists call ‘the by-stander effect‘: once you realise that it’s possible for a group of people to completely ignore someone in dire need or great danger because each of the group assumes that one of the others will do the helping, then you become aware of it in your daily life, and make sure you actively help someone in need no matter who else is around. Knowing that we are biologically pre-disposed to ignore or play down climate change might make sceptics see that their strong convictions aren’t as unbiased as they’d like to think.