Doing More With Less
“Doing More with Less” was a phrase used by the industrial philosopher Buckminster Fuller. He believed it was the direction that society was evolving as our tools improved. Tools can be either software or hardware. Tools evolve as knowledge grows, and Fuller believed that you could not learn less, so knowledge would always be growing. So far so good and doing more with less is a useful way of thinking about progress.
But with the increasing complications of modern life, it becomes more difficult to know if the change you make does in fact do more with less or not. And so I propose two more truisms. You stand a better chance of actually doing more with less if you can “do away with” the detritus of superfluous consumption. A redesigned car that gets more miles per gallon, is not as powerful as redesigning communities that do not rely on automobiles and paved roads as the mode of transportation. Small changes to the end products of our industrial society, will not get us to a point that is sustainable. And so to the second truism; a lot of what is heralded as environmental progress is what I call “Eco-porn”. Electric cars that run on electricity from a coal fire plant is not a solution to anything. Making ethanol from corn to add to gasoline takes more oil than just using untreated fuel.
Be very wary of any claims of new and improved technology. You have to analogize the total life cycle of the product. I'm not sure if anyone could answer with certainty whether paper or plastic is better. We need to decrease our use of fossil fuel to below 10% of our current level, (just a guess on my part). Which means a lot more “doing away with” and less improving.