Welcome to the dehumanizing world of scientific management, where business gurus and middle managers view workers as resources, and where a cult-like devotion to productivity has invaded almost all facets of daily life.
In most prevailing sustainability narratives, increased efficiency is a prominent component. It is a prerequisite for the supposed possibility to combine decreasing pressure on natural resources with economic growth.
Instead of retreating into urban eco-sanctuaries and buying industrial fare in hygienic and eco-friendly packaging, people need to grow, tend to animals, muck, dig, cook and bake. Only then can we expect people to become ecologically literate and realise that we are part of nature.
Our guest this week on Sea Change Radio, Low Tech Magazine founder, Kris De Decker, makes a compelling case for the abandonment of efficiency as the barometer for planetary stewardship. He proposes we use the simpler, but perhaps more painful objective of sufficiency.
New research demonstrates – again – how deceptive the concepts of productivity and efficiency are in agriculture. Huge increases in labor productivity and modest increases in land productivity are gained by a massive increase of use of external resources, while natural capital is depleted. Is that efficient?
On a simplistic level, efficiency is maximum (or optimal) output with minimum waste.
A new voice has emerged recently in Canada called the “Ecofiscal Commission,” which could have the funding, clout, and determination to steer the country in a more promising direction.
In modern economic thought, efficiency is paramount. The goal of economic systems, and entities within those systems, is to maximize efficiency.
A fictional race of near automatons called The Borg appearing in the Star Trek series of television shows and movies have more in common with us modern humans than we’d like to admit.
The more I learn about it, the more Nature looks like a Rube Goldberg machine: energy and materials flow through convoluted paths to accomplish something seemingly simple.
The unavoidable tradeoff between efficiency and resilience can be understood easily enough by considering an ordinary bridge. All bridges these days have vastly more structural strength than they need in order to support their ordinary load of traffic. This is inefficient, to be sure, but it makes the bridges resilient; they can withstand high winds, unusually heavy loads, deferred maintenance, and other challenges without collapsing.
We live in a vast mechanized economy, where machines do 90-99% of the mechanical work needed to create and deliver products and services, even food. These machines are paid in energy, and have no notion of human currency. This article explores the idea of metabolic (energy backed) currency, how it might come about, and what we can learn from the technology industry.