How We Need to Shift from our Environmental Scarcity Mindset

Cory Doctorow excellent Locus column ‘Cory Doctorow: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots‘ completed by his own post introduction ‘my column on how technology could let us work like artisans and live like kings‘ hints at interesting historical facts about our current vision of world ecology.

In particular he explains how since the 1970s and the book Limits to Growth “scientists, sf writers, economists and environmental activists have wrestled with the question of abundance — how the “green left” transformed left wing politics from the promise of every peasant living like a lord to the promise of every lord living like a peasant.”

The assumption of scarcity which stems from this approach (itself closely related to the limits of our Mother Earth so visible from photos of the space missions from 1960s) coupled with the assumption that well being was necessarily related to a significant usage of natural resources led to the development of a strong culpability feeling for all of us – and the feeling that we could only expect a decrease in our comfort level.

This scarcity assumption is still the premise of many comments on environmental issues. It is an issue in some instances but overall, we seem to have increasingly decorrelated energy consumption from growth. Would it not be possible that in the Collaborative Age we manage to have abundance within the capability of Mother Earth?

The point here is that some of the 1970s assumptions that govern the way we manage environmental politics might need to be revisited in the light of recent technological developments.