Fighting for the Climate

Following the advice of Katherine Hayhoe and many others, first in fighting for the climate is having conversations with those we know and meet -all the time. The companion advice is to be able to say what positive steps can be taken.

In the Spring 2021 Newsletter, I put out the call for building a list of positive changes. That will make this a growing post with additions along the way. Where possible, summaries with links will be given rather than long explanations. No priority is applied to the order items appear.

Please contact me with your suggestions or notes of corrections and additions to the list.

For ease of use, the suggestions are divided into 1. Personal Actions 2. Large Scale Actions 3. Systemic Shifts.

1. Personal Actions

2. Large Scale Actions

Converting Carbon into Rock
In Iceland, carbon captured from geothermic production is converted into rock permanently. Carbon is injected into basalt rock where the chemical elements allow for the carbon to fill in the porous basalt and become rock. The process uses a lot of water. I don’t know if the water is reusable. And the result is a different rock, no longer porous. No mention of that effect.

3. Systemic Shifts

On Demand Production
Instead of producing a large inventory of product, warehousing it, and disposing of overproduction that didn’t sell, a new approach is taken by some North American manufacturers of high quality product. A run of product is announced and orders taken through retailers. The orders are filled in what might be a few months. The manufacturer then is not estimating on the production, investing in stock that might not sell, or having to dump product at reduced price.

This provides more financial guarantees with less risk for smaller companies and eliminates the potential for waste product. the financial stability would allow for redirected investment in workers or research, for example. And I suspect marketing costs are reduced; there isn’t the need to push and hustle sales, create desire for a product where the company just needs to get rid of product. People order the product because they want it. Production is limited to only product that is wanted. Yes there is marketing, but is focused on value rather than solving a problem of too much production or sales at any cost business model. With a subscription to the product, in effect, marketers are able to test and measure the viability of a product or allow for products that have shorter life-spans. This means manufacturers don’t have to keep flogging a product year in and out as their identity. Rather their name becomes synonymous with a value represented in an ever-evolving product range.

There might be a risk that people buy a product because of a pressure that it will no longer be available after a certain date when the orders are filled. However, the culture really is that if one needs that product, one orders it. If one has to wait a few months before receiving the product, then one has made a thoughtful choice. It’s eliminating the great curse of capitalism: impulse buying.

Two other benefits arise from this new culture of purchasing. A product with a limited run made of better material has higher resale value, so it will be re-sold instead of discarded. And in the end, the potential buyer knows that should they pass on an order, if the product is really useful, the manufacturer will put it back into production. But again, the real value to society is consumers are thinking long-term need and value, rather than being caught up in some marketing excitement of the moment, some stimulation to buy, where days later, the product has lost its gleam. With on-demand production, the consumer is trained in effect, by means of a new culture, to make good choices. Good choices mean less garbage, products are thoughtfully purchased and having real value for the consumer are used and cared for for a long time. And in this culture, the manufacturers are better off, too.

If the consumer is not buying basically the same product over and over, which is the model now. Having a manufacturing model based on short runs of quality product, product that will last for years, that can be long run production if the product sustains that, means a lot less garbage of product thrown out and replaced, and a lot less shipping packaging.

There may be an underlying benefit that might apply to a systemic shift away from a capitalist need for more each year: combat risk mitigated with marketing ‘want’ rather than meeting ‘need’; combat a culture of flogging a generic product, forcing on it a long life-span despite limited real value to instead allowing for product of value with a short-life span to fit into a manufacturing model; combat manufacturers reliance on developing resources as product and marketing the hell out of the resources for empty sales to instead applying resources only as needed to meet real value; combat the curse of more and more garbage.

And further to the inherent benefit that can’t be quantified: if our manufacturing can work with producing quality products of value as needed rather than flashy product that has to be replaced every few days or months, then the product people are using will be better quality to last a longer time, and using a product that is better quality, not cheap, means people are happier in their lives.

The shift afforded by on-demand production is away from cheap product suited to impulse buying that ends up as garbage in a few months which provides no pleasure in its use, all the pleasure is in the sales marketing and packaging. On-demand production allows for a secure business model for making good product, sold before production, that does not rely on years of continuous production. Good product isn’t replaced over and over, creating garbage of product and packaging. Good product gets used over and over, and for that gives the user more pleasure and a measured increase in happiness and satisfaction with life.

CNC production and 3D printing and software tracking of production, sales and delivery are technologies supportive of this new model. First, the technology is flexible, not dedicated to processing one product. Give the machine new instructions and it readily produces a different product. And second, the on-demand production model also works best financially for this equipment which is very expensive to purchase and run. Using the costly equipment for a guaranteed sale makes a lot of sense.

Now this model is being applied by producers of high-end product. That’s not so bad. First, high-end manufacturing works in North America where employees, like machinists, can be well-paid and the economic model supports paying good salaries. Second, the more high-end and permanent the product. Right now the huge production runs that have to be sustained year in and out by marketing, constant innovation, the lowest possible price point and continuing replacement sales of the same product results in huge use of resources and creation of garbage or soon discarded product and tons of packaging. I heard more than 70% of the garbage going into landfill is less than 6 months old.

I have no basis to know, but I would assume this model could apply to basic items as well, say a cooking utensil. A short-run production that is pre-sold means with a higher cost for better materials and design and production quality, and delayed delivery means people would a thoughtful choice about that spoon purchase, would be prepared to invest more money in a better spoon, have that spoon for a lifetime, and enjoy its use over a long time. for example. For all that, people finding such value in their utensils would also find happiness in their lives.

What are we really changing here. We would be shifting from a culture of ‘making a purchase,’ a culture based on buying and buying which means heavy duty marketing and cheap price point to get that impulsive sale. The culture would shift from making a purchase to having a product that one needs and values for years to come. This new kind of order and purchase is thoughtful and intentional.

Philip Shepherd in his book Radical Self wonders what if the button we clicked online didn’t just offer “Buy Now” but had a drop down menu to choose from, for example, ‘Buy Later” or “Buy in a Year” or “Borrow from a Friend”? How would that be a different world we live in! A better world.

One manufacturer with this new business model: Woodpecker Tools