The Greenest Dollar Is

the One Not Spent

Actions come from thoughts and thoughts from feelings.

The greenest dollar is the one not spent. 1) Imagine !

Spending more is what Growth economics is all about. Humanity is already stretching planetary limits, yet governments almost everywhere encourage more Growth. Growth that would double—and more—human impacts on our already stressed planet.

It has been said that “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism!” 2)
Since the industrial revolution, the culture of Capitalism has shaped how our characters develop. Earn and spend; invest, produce, profit and grow, Grow, GROW is the framework we’ve grown up in.

While producing enormous financial wealth, this process wrecks havoc. For many generations human impacts on Earth were minimal. Today, however, the exponential expansion of capital increasingly exhausts natural resources and pollutes the soil, water and atmosphere.

“If the economy doesn’t collapse soon, something terrible is going to happen.” 3)
What is more terrible than economic collapse? Social breakdown and environmental collapse would be far worse. No society can endure if people won’t work together and the environment is crippled. As accumulated fortunes scan the planet for natural and human resources to turn into ever more money, the problems compound.

Differing views of obsolescence clarify the needed change. If the kettle you bought six months ago quits because its temperature control burns out, or if new clothing is no longer stylish enough to wear, growth is stimulated, jobs are created, and profits increase! In the new order, we could be richer in resources and less polluted once obsolescence no longer squanders natural resources and creates unnecessary waste. Is it not a confession of its own obsolescence that contemporary accounting says that well-being depends on resources draw-down and pollution?

We need to reduce resource exploitation and pollution, by reducing consumption. Belt-tightening, however, lacks appeal. Instead, let's look at what we can reclaim.

More fun, less stuff 4) is a beacon for setting our course toward the new order. Long-term well-being is found in relationships, appreciation, helping, sport, creativity, and learning. Such life-based activities 5 can be represented by the single word, “fun”. We could get so much satisfaction from living that we wouldn’t have time to consume at a dangerous level.

"We can no longer have everything we want, but we can be more than we ever imagined." 6)
Ours is the most serious challenge in recorded history. We have to focus on internal development and learn to enjoy ourselves!

We will always need to consume food and shelter. How we provide for them, however, can aggravate problems, or be the greenest of the dollars we do spend. They can substantially increase sustainability.

Quality nutrition can be sustained with minimal impact. The majority of our nutritional needs circulate freely in the atmosphere nearly everywhere on Earth. Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen make up most of our body weight. Other necessary elements can be cycled endlessly between our bodies and local soils. 7) What we do with the life secured by integrating with these cycles makes all the difference.

Shelters can be sustainable. Indoor spaces can be durably constructed and kept warm using renewable energy. Seasonal shade and tapping underground chill can keep them cool.

Education and health care can be provided with minimal material impacts. Education consists mostly of knowledge and goodwill—both life-based. We can have all we want of these and more. Health care is the same, at the preventative level. We know what sorts of nutrition, activity, and circumstances result in good health. 8) By sharing that knowledge and encouraging each other to be our best, more complex medical interventions will be reduced dramatically.

We also need to contribute to our communities—we call such work ‘jobs'. There will be lots to do during the transformation, but afterward, we may have to share productive work and find fulfilling ways to spend increased leisure time. A Just Transition is essential. People need to be confident that they won’t suffer from the necessary changes.

If the voice of advertising fell silent, what would people want?
Successful transformation depends on what we want. Our attention is famously distracted by shiny things; a quality extensively exploited by advertising. Presently over six hundred billion dollars are spent each year telling us that we need things to be happy. It is not true and that’s why that message costs so much. What we need are each other and things to do that inspire us to get out of bed in the morning.

George Monbiot talks about private sufficiency and public luxury. 9)
There are not enough resources for every person to have private luxuries, but if we enjoy them together, in public libraries, sports facilities, public parks, and the like, there can be extensive public luxury with sufficient still available for everyone’s basic needs.

"Love what is plentiful as much as what is scarce." 10)
While this confronts craving for status and thrills, imagine the possibilities. We could end the threat of conflict over scarce resources and avoid environmental collapse, while leading more fulfilling lives.

While a world based on health and sufficiency and focused on what we can do with our lives is hard to imagine, action begins with feeling. By sharing the bold lines above, we can stimulate people’s feelings, get them thinking and together shift toward a viable world.



1. Richard Jones, RJ’s Specialties: renewable energy systems.

2. Attributed to Slavoj Žižek’s but perhaps coined by Fredric Jameson.

3. Richard Thomas, a candidate for leadership of the Liberal Party of Ontario. He later gained notoriety when he was arrested for distilling ethanol to power his car. The charges were dropped.

4. More Fun Less Stuff and Getting From Here to There

5. Life-Based Activities

6. Howard Jerome

7. My take on economic and biological aspects of sustainability. Full cycle nutrient management is described shortly after the 42-minute point.

8. Determinants of health

9. George Monbiot, Schumacher Lecture audio.
Text version

10. Alice Walker, We Alone Can Devalue Gold


Learning, Love and Laughter

A Key to Sustainability

"We can no longer have everything we want, but
we can be more than we ever imagined
Howard Jerome

The desire to grow is firmly rooted in our characters. Throughout our formative years and well beyond, growth is a preoccupation. To be able to crawl, to reach the water tap or to have our own way all require getting bigger. The residual urge to grow has been harnessed to stimulate the expansion of material consumption. The dilemma is that, while each of us wants to grow, collectively we have already grown to confront the limits of our planet. The solution has a well established precedent in each of our individual lives. For the most part, our physical growth comes to an end as we become adults. Physical growth is replaced by the development of our understanding, skills, relationships and appreciation of what life offers.

Voluntary simplicity is easier to promote when it is clear that it offers abundant opportunities for growth. Life-based pursuits, or the '3 L's' -- Learning, Love and Laughter -- as they are referred to for our sound bite world, offer boundless frontiers. The development of skills, scholarship, art, music, sport, dance, friendship, spiritual aspiration, parenting and service were the essence of human culture before the commercial era pressed acquisition to its current place of prominence. The saturation of landfill space, problems with pollution and painful experiences with finite natural resources bid us re-consider the emphasis we place on the pursuit of our human birthright.

In the same way that a developing embryo goes through the stages of evolution, civilization will likely follow the pattern of individual maturation. As a culture we are in late adolescence. We have grown big enough to accomplish anything which life requires of us. Now, as self-centeredness gives way to responsibility, our rapid physical growth can transmute into the growth of the remarkable qualities which make people unique among life forms.