Thursday, March 05, 2009

My Two Lists

In this Nature News item there is a brief description of something I think should be happening in the UK. Why keep producing cars that no one wants? Why supplement the industries making the cars? Instead use that expertise to produce something that will help the planet - in this Swedish case wind power. Why not extend this excellent idea to other useless items?

So I have been trying to think of two lists: 'do need' and 'don't need' and wondering how many skills can be diverted. Maybe I'm being naive here - but surely that would go some way to solving two crises - the economic one as well as the climatic one. In fact it seems so obvious to me there must be some good reason why it's not happening.

Here is the start of my two lists - any other contributions gratefully received.

(As you can see I have included some items (marked with an asterisk) that aren't strictly necessary for physical survival but with the idea that the heart too must be fed).

Do Need
Medical supplies
Refuse collection
Educational supplies
Renewable power for heating and cooking
Good public transport systems
Clean Water
Clear-thinking leaders in it for the long term
Four TV channels (either satellite or terrestrial as long as it is good)
Comfortable Clothing
Fresh food supplies

Don't Need
Politicians (local or national)
Non-local food stuffs except for coffee, tea, chocolate and wine
More than 4 TV channels
Most plastics
Fashion (in clothing and other items)


Blogger Jud said...

Hmmm...I would argue that car nuts and fashion mavens might swap those items for books and films. Certainly many designers consider themselves artists. I shall make the assumption that people are buying new cars in the UK and that they are, therefore, wanted, and that the populace is not being forced to purchase them.

Non-local foodstuffs? You want to do without pepper and other spices? And why allow for coffee and tea, both of which must be transported long distances and use lots of fossil fuels to reach you (and me, as I love coffee)? Would we be reduced to wearing monochromatic jumpsuits if fashion were eliminated?

And we could function without politicians? Only if we all became politicians. Someone has to run the public works that collects the refuse, and monitors clean water, etc.

I am not saying that there are things I could eliminate in my life to reduce my carbon footprint, etc. Let me add the USA where I live is the land of waste and excess and if we could change our ways the world would be a better place.

Thu Mar 05, 07:51:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, car nuts and fashion mavens might indeed swap them around, but cars, I believe, are unsustainable (although I do have one so I am being hypocritical here). People could still design and be fashionable but it would have to be a local thing in addition to whatever else they do that would have to be useful and practical. Again, I am being hypocritical because, I am pretty much a waste of space in all this.

Car manufacturing is being subsidised in this country. They are not selling hence factories are asking for government bail-outs but I don't think they should have them. Of course I would feel differently about this if I worked for the car industry.

I think we could do without pepper - and salt most people can get...and yes, I know I should really do without coffee and tea...

No, I don't think we should be reduced to monochromatic jump-suits but I think basic practical items would be better and can be fashioned in a limited way - which would be a suitable challenge for the fashion afficionados mentioned above.

I think we could function very well without politicians. They waste energy - they do not follow their ideals but tailor everything they do for getting in again - and each time there is a change there is more legislation and paperwork. It is a waste of time and energy and we could do without it. In my scheme 'the clear-sighted leaders' would do a much better job with the services.

I need to eliminate things too - but I cannot do it do it alone. I need the clear-sighted leaders to make me - and make all the people around me too.

Thu Mar 05, 08:16:00 pm  
Blogger Jud said...

Hmmm...a Platonic philosopher king, perhaps?

Thu Mar 05, 08:51:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Jud, that would be good! Thanks for your reply by the way!

Thu Mar 05, 08:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No fashion… Clare, even "primitive" people liked to adorn themselves with color pigments, feathers, iPods*, gems, fabrics, etc. and I bet, since the neolithic period at least (as far as I know).

No politicians… I hope you don't mean that we should get rid of parliamentary government? It's either that or Autocracy… Although the two can coexist as in Sarkozy's France right now. You sound a tiny bit like a "neocon" on this one… I agree that a great number of MPs are inept, but we elected them! What I'd like is for MPs to be free from the so-called "party line", and for the citizens to be able to vote for anyone they choose.

You need… a computer, otherwise we wouldn't be reading you. Therefore: chemical plants, plastics, alloys, an ISP, etc.

* Voluntary anachronism.

Fri Mar 06, 01:02:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the spirit of your post, Clare. How much to we really need? Can we each cut down a little bit? Can we stop our non-stop, senseless consumption? It's not the specifics necessarily; it's the overall message.

Fri Mar 06, 02:56:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, I agree about fashion Gilles - it is something that happens naturally - but I don't think we need an industry with people devoting their lives to it, I think it should be an 'extra'.

And yes, I am questioning the system of parliamentary government. It seems to me to be very wasteful. They promise to do one thing and so we vote for them, and then, once in power, they renege. What is the point? Also, it seems to be so corrupt. Unfortunately, I have not yet thought of a replacement. I think part of the problem is that they are in for such a short term and so concentrate very much on the keeping in power by appeasing those who support them - who often do not have the world's best interests at heart. I wonder if a system where people are voted out of power if they do not come up to scratch rather than being voted in. Then, maybe, there could be some long-term policies.

And yes, no party line! Excellent idea.

And yes I agree I do need plastic for my computer - there are certainly some things that plastic is vital for - but we use too much and we are going to have to cut down anyway because the oil is running out. That is a change that will soon be forced on us, I think.

Yes, just my view, Mary - and I deliberately set out to be a little controversial. I wanted to discuss this, to kind of make a move as if in a chess game - here is my piece so that other people move theirs.

Fri Mar 06, 09:27:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't need:

* Banks
* "Customer service" departments of companies, especially when "outsourced", and even more especially when outsourced to other countries where operators do not understand the product or the language.
* Oversimplistic and petulant demands, opinions and expectations by people on internet forums
* Adverts in TV programmes
* Junk food
* Salt in ready meals and other prepared foodstuffs
* Free newspapers and especially when left to litter train compartments

Do need:
* Integrated train network system
* Decent underground station at Kings Cross that can cope with the number of (attempted) passengers
* The ability to walk down and cross York Way without risking life, limb, lungs.
* More individual choice in shops and fewer chain stores selling the same thing as each other
* Actual people answering the phone (in organisations)

Fri Mar 06, 12:57:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thank you, Maxine - I agree with all those! A great list.

I think that some of this could be extended. The free newspapers, for instance. Why did we start having them? Who asked for them? I think we are expecting to get too much for free or too cheaply and maybe the internet is to blame for some of this. It devalues things. I am gradually coming to believe that it is a good thing to have some things - like alcohol - as luxurious items. I makes us appreciate them more.

I used to think that it was a wonderful thing to have so much information so freely available, but now I am beginning to wonder if in fact it has turned out to be too expensive.

Fri Mar 06, 02:08:00 pm  
Blogger LN said...

I'm thinking about your list here, but first and foremost (USA-based) in my mind for years has been my desperate hatred of the automobile. I speak as someone who has done a lot of driving, almost all professionally for work-related purposes. Put it this way, I can't imagine anyone 'going for a pleasure drive'. The one thing I loved about Europe was the excellent public transportation, used by virtually everyone.

Anyone in the US arguing about 'wasteful subsidies' is apparently unaware of the incredible amount of tax money thrown away on highways.

Given a practical choice, I'd never drive again. Never.

Fri Mar 06, 02:26:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

LN: Yes, I agree with you about cars...mostly. Driving anywhere in towns is generally stressful and I tend to avoid it as much as I can. I have to admit though that I do love to drive along an empty road. A train is almost as good, however - especially an empty carriage. Neither of these are likely or economically viable, I know.

I am surprised you think we have a good public transport system in Europe - but perhaps you are talking mainly about mainland Europe. Although I am lucky where I live I think most people find the UK transport system, especially around London, expensive and unreliable.

Fri Mar 06, 02:48:00 pm  
Blogger Jud said...

to Maxine & Clare:

We don't need banks? I would agree that they are not without their faults, and can be pointed for contributing directly or indirectly for a number of the grave issues facing us today, but how would commerce operate with banks?

Having studied the US banking system and history in some detail, and the world banking system in less detail, we would truly revert to local economies without them. And without banks, we would probably have to revert to a hard currency for all transactions. Forget plastic, forget checks. Carrying cash - or other hard currency for every transaction, or barter. And, instead of going to a bank for a loan, one would have to borrow from friends or relatives or ask the wealthy for money.

And international travel? Forget it. Can you imagine travelling with one bag full of gold coins or whatver hard currency would be necessary to pay the locals?

Can you imagine the crime that might resurface if the criminals knew you were carrying cash on you? That there weren't systems in place to cancel your cash card or stop payment on a check when your wallet/purse is stolen?

I think that deregulation of banking, at least in the US has not been friendly to consumers, but banks do greatly facilitate fast and safe moentary transactions between individuals and businesses.

Sorry for the rant.

Fri Mar 06, 03:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jud - nope, no banks, thanks. I'm stashing my money under the bed before my bank starts charging me interest for saving in it.

Clare - the "free" newspapers are not "free", they are ripoffs of the paid-for papers. They rehash articles that real paid journalists and production and publishers produce. Then dish them out free on an advertising model. All they will achieve is to put all the proper newspapers out of business (because very few people buy them now), whereupon there will be no actual content in the free rags, because they have no real journalists, editors, production etc. A load of rubbish, in more than one sense of the word. I wish everyone would boycott them - it isn't as if proper newspapers are exactly expensive - but for the sake of saving a few pence, short-termism means the death of what passes for quality reporting and independently produced information content.

Fri Mar 06, 05:16:00 pm  
Blogger cromercrox said...

One way to learn about the things you can do without is to do what I did now more than a decade ago (gosh) and go on a field trip to Africa for almost three weeks. Even though I took only a rucksack and little more than the clothes I stood up in, I found that I could very easily do without things like alcohol, TV, radio, sugar, nearly all reading matter, running water and electricity. In other words, what the people who live there do, all the time. The thing I missed most was fresh fruit and vegetables.

Fri Mar 06, 06:39:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Jud: Actually I think local economies are much under-rated. I heard a Nobel Laureate talk about micro-banking the other night and it is the first time for a long while I have felt optimistic about anything. Micro-banking can do a lot of good to help people - from rural India to New York City.

We should do more locally, in my opinion. Globalisation, I believe, is the cause of much poverty in the world, .

As for foreign travel, that too, should be more restricted. It is one of those luxuries that has been cheapened and is overused. Flying in particular is a dreadful polluter of the planet.

Anyway, travelling without plastic is possible. There used to be travellers cheques which worked quite well without plastic I remember, and were a safe way of keeping and obtaining money.

Maxine: I didn't know that about those newspapers. That's dreadful. We do have a print daily - the Telegraph which makes my husband get up and walk to the shop every morning - his exercise.

And Cromercrox - what an amazing thing to do! I really admire people who do this sort of thing. Instead of just pontificating like I tend to do - they go ahead and really do it. Wonderful! It must be reassuring you know you can survive without much. I know I should but wonder if tested I might fail.

Fri Mar 06, 09:58:00 pm  
Blogger Jud said...

So, if we were to examine the standard of living today vs. any other time, based on a percentage of those living today versus at other times, there are more people inpoverished today (because of globalisation) than in the past?

I don't know the answer to that question, just my own suppositions.

Would we classify tribal, nomadic societies as impoverished?

And micro-banking is still banking, not ridding ourselves of banks.

I am just curious...and very glad you stirred the pot, as it were.

Sat Mar 07, 01:36:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

I love that you have celebrities etc on the list of Don't Needs - what a waste of money all that palaver is. They are just people for goodness sake - why idolise and spend money on them when half the world is living in poverty? It's downright repulsive.

Sat Mar 07, 03:42:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Jud, I guess that there are - although I don't know of course, and it depends on your definition of impoverishment. I would not count nomadic or tribal people as impoverished - although I guess that some of them might be.

And yes, microbanking is still banking - but not as we know it!

Yes, Kay, exactly - all that money and attention we give them when there are so many more rewarding things we could think about instead.

Sat Mar 07, 09:05:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh yeah, the celebrities, without those, the free papers wouldn't have much to scribble about...

Sat Mar 07, 10:22:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha, excellent link, Barbara!

Sat Mar 07, 01:41:00 pm  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

I think this recession will make people re-examine their purchasing habits. We've had clothes as cheap as chips for quite some time, but the quality is sub-standard. Bought a fine cotton blouse in the M&S sale last year. Wore it once then washed it. It looks like it should be a duster now. I think that in respect of fashion, people may start to return to the classics and seek clothes that will last. Perhaps the old oiled-wool Guernsey sweater will make a reappearance?

Another "don't need" that I have is the ludicrous amounts paid on transferring footballers across teams and to the footballers themselves. The figures are so high because of corporate sponsorships and this often comes from banks, including the failed ones. Time they learned their priorities, but as we know, that seems to be beyond the ken of many in this country at the moment.

I read recently that the Dutch want to spend to keep their economy going by putting it into improving their infrastructure and they are also considering improvements in buildings insulation. That would be a good thing here too, especially as fuel bills are not going down and in the most recent cold snap we had a four day supply of gas in stock, for which we have an over-reliance on Russian supply. We need to improve our country and not by adding politically correct non-jobs in the public sector.

And, yes, though I can't remember where you left the comment now, Clare, we are all getting angry about what's happening. We have a government that takes actions, frighteningly increasing the country's debt, but they keep on going down the same route because it didn't work last time. Shameful. And they never say mistakes were made. And for that, they never see a need to be accountable and apologise. I think we live in horrifying times.

Sat Mar 07, 11:24:00 pm  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

And further on the insulation thing - this is the government that introduced the "home pack" that no one wanted. One of its aims is to rate the energy efficiency of your property. Many in this country are crap because we have so many Victorian properties and everyone accepts that. So if the government thinks this is all so important, putting money into improving our housing stock would make sense. It's not a new thing either, councils provided "enveloping schemes" in the 80s. Certain households in one area of Cardiff got a new roof and windows!

Sat Mar 07, 11:40:00 pm  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

Well what'd you know? I just spotted this on RBS and its sports deals:

And the word verification for this comment? ProBALL. You couldn't make it up.

Sat Mar 07, 11:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we could live in the same imaginary small country.

The one I live in is a bit too large for no cars, but we certainly have too many of them. I think it would be delicious, however, to live in a small country with good transport.

I've always thought a writer ought to be happier in a smaller country--unless one enjoys the "biz," a smaller country offers a better setting.

Sun Mar 08, 01:19:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, well, CFR, although I am disenchanted with this government - mainly because it is not socialist enough - I do not have a great deal of faith in the alternatives either. I think we need a radical rethink of what we're doing, and having read the headlines of Prince Charles's view about global warming I am wondering if reinstating the idea of 'absolute monarch' might be a worth a go. At least his heart seems in the right place.

Also, I don't really think all of this is the government's fault - the problem is global after all.

The Dutch seem to have an excellent idea in developing their infra-structure.

And yes, footballers, at least the ridiculously earning ones (most of them are not), should be placed alongside celebrities. This goes for all overpaid sportspeople - not just footballers.

I agree also about cheap clothes but not because of the inferior quality. My concern is that someone somewhere has made them for a pittance. It smacks of exploitation and is one of the bad effects of globalisation.

Yes, Marly - an imaginary small world would be good. Once I thought I had found a place - Sark - which allows no cars. However when I read more it too seemed to be corrupt for other reasons.

Sun Mar 08, 01:09:00 pm  
Blogger Carla said...

Can I beg to keep spices? They are light and low-volume and transport easily in the dried state so would be quite happy travelling by ship (even sail power, if we ever re-invent it - tea, coffee and a good many other long-distance foodstuffs likewise). Even Bede had a little store of pepper to divide among his friends in his will in the 8th century.

Wed Mar 18, 02:11:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Okay, Carla - you can keep spices (I am feeling magnanimous today:-)). I like the look of your novels - I used to like reading Rosemary Sutcliffe when I was a child.

Thu Mar 19, 04:58:00 pm  

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