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Monday, 06 May 2013 12:57

Forget Shorter Showers

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Derrick Jensen is a well known American author and environmental activist who takes a critical look not only at the corporate and political worlds that promulgate or condone environmental abuse - but at environmentalists too. In 2011, we asked Jensen to contribute to the Third Edition of the Organic Explorer Guidebook ( - New Zealand's Green travel Guide. His contribution, Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change is a pithy piece that demystifies the processes used to shift attention away from industrial and corporate culpability and to create instead the illusion of saving the planet by personal change. He asks:  "Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, ort that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tzarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal "solutions"? Part of the problem is that we've been victims of a campaign of systemic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organised political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption - changing light bulbs, inflating tyres, driving half as much - and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in New Zealand (and everywhere else for that matter) did everything the movie suggested, carbon emissions would fall by only 22%. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75% worldwide" .  He notes, for instance that more than 90% of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The same with energy use. No more than 25% of all energy use globally uis used for personal use. The remaining 75 % is burned up by the same industrialists and farmers. He advocates that we act decisively to address the problem at source - and actively engage with the political and economic infrastructure to bring about the necessary changes. Environmental activism is, according to Jensen, the only chance we have to stop impending catastrophe.

To download the PDF click here

See also: Confronting Climate Change - a case study of an attempt by architecture students at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to develop systems for urban sustainabilityby clicking here

For a detailed analysis on the impact and appropriate response to climate change and resource depletion in the housing sector see: Housing Settlements for the Imminent Crises by clicking here

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