22 September 2008

It's the Energy Stupid!

In spite of evidence that UK consumers bought less stuff in the last statistical quarter (only 0.1% less stuff, but in view of recent trends the slowing down is still notable), the reduced incomes resulting from economic slowdown and the disappearance of cheap money is likely to make people respond more strongly to prices when making the spending decisions.

This is a shame. Capitalist economics has trained us to use price as the most important factor in making decisions. If we look at just one market, the food market, we see the consequences of this. Until recently we may have been able to buy ever more food for ever less money but the food has been of frankly shit quality.

The predominance of price in market decisions is an indication and a reinforcement of the fact that, as capitalism grinds on to its miserable nadir, money becomes the only thing of importance. Everything else is sacrified to money—quality, happiness, health and so on. In a market where money is set up as god, both producers and consumers lose out. Those who win are those who control the money.

There is something we can do about this and that is set up for ourselves another standard rather than that of money. We should create our own mental energy-tags to replace the price-tags that the market shows us. When making purchasing decisions we have to be actively enthusiastic about paying more for items that have less embodied energy.

Once you adopt this way of thinking it becomes a habit and you begin to see stuff in shops in terms of its energy content rather than its price. In this way you can begin to the shift from measuring economic life in terms of energy rather than money that sustainability requires.

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