Saturday, 15 September 2007

Plan B

After Thursday's lengthy post, I remembered another stand-out passage from that Ran Prieur essay, one that relates to a lot of conversations I've had over the last couple of years. He's talking about the motives for what policy-makers call "behaviour change":

We think we're turning off the air conditioner and bicycling to work to save the Earth. In fact, other people and other economies will just take our place at the Earth-gobbling table and eat it just as fast. What we're really saving is our future sanity, by practicing for the day when we're forced to reduce consumption...

This is the honest answer when someone asks, "What's the point?" But it's an answer that even the greenest mainstream companies and politicians are unlikely to give you - because it involves imagining a world in which they lose their current dominance.

Here in the UK, the upmarket retailer Marks & Spencer has been running a campaign to change its behaviour, under the banner: 'Plan A - Because There Is No Plan B'. I find that a really disturbing message, because personally I can imagine a world in which people live well without much of the current retail apparatus. So while there may be no Plan B for a company like Marks & Spencer, that's not an argument for putting all our eggs in one (supermarket) basket...*

In fact, over the last two years I've met all kinds of people who are developing something that looks a lot like a Plan B. It doesn't look much like a plan, more like a great distributed research project with no overseeing structure. For months now, I've been intending to write a longer article about this - something I may still do. But in the mean time, I've decided to dedicate most of my blogging for the next little while to writing about examples of this kind of 'action research' - people who are practicing for the day when we're forced to change our ways of living.

* Just to be clear, I'm not saying Marks & Spencer shouldn't be doing what they're doing - reducing their carbon footprint, stocking fair trade products, encouraging people to use less plastic bags. But the slogan they've chosen provides an unusually clear statement of a far more widespread approach to 'sustainability', the subtext of which is that we must preserve our current lifestyles at all costs.


C said...

Hi there,

could you link back to the actual flickr page please:

Not my call, i believe it's in flickr's terms and conditions. Thanks!


Dougald Hine said...

Apologies! I've fixed the link.

Thanks again for the picture.

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