Tidalpunk, logistics, and degrowth

Grist recently ran an article about a Costa Rican project to build a carbon neutral shipping fleet using traditional wooden boat building techniques including sails as the primary means of propulsion. Maria Gallucci writes that the worldwide commercial shipping industry moves 10.7 billion tonnes of material every year, predominantly by diesel powered megaships.

This seems particularly problematic when we look at the 262 million tonnes of municipal waste generated in the US alone every year. The article about the Costa Rican fleet said sailing vessels wouldn’t be able to make up a large proportion of the shipping fleet, but the question I had was, “Do we really need to be shipping this much stuff?”

While capitalism is based on unending, cancerous growth, there is a growing community of people around the world investigating how dialing back the economy could be better for people and the planet. When coupled with a circular economy, the degrowth movement points toward a brighter, greener future like that envisioned in solarpunk. Decentralized, local production of goods using recycled technical and biological nutrients would lead to a more resilient and less energy-intensive supply chain.

Some front-line communities are already leading the charge against climate change by developing solutions that are much more relevant to their local environment than the one-size-fits-all techno-solutionism often argued for in the US and other western countries.

What do you think? Should we just find “sustainable” ways to keep consumption at it’s current levels, or should we reevaluate our relationships with material goods? Let us know below!

6 thoughts on “Tidalpunk, logistics, and degrowth

  1. Craig

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. If we are going to have a future of abundance, we are going to have to reconsider what we actually mean by abundance, because even if we went fully renewable-powered, our current societal structure still demands an unsustainable amount of resources.
    we need to aim for an abundance of what humans truly need (food, water good shelter, medicine, community) and not what is desired (individual cars, novelty electronics, disposable products, etc)

    1. Solarpunk Gnome Post author

      I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism,” and what struck me was the focus on maximizing the things you like, not a turn to asceticism. When you frame the problem as “You don’t need that,” which I’m often guilty of doing, you turn people off from the message pretty quickly. I think this has to do with the fact that humans are psychologically geared to be more sensitive to loss than to potential gains.

      If we frame the problem more as, “All this stuff is getting in the way of being able to focus on the stuff you really want,” we can help each other be happier and reduce our consumption of things that aren’t important.

      This was a big realization for me, but one I’m still struggling to implement when 2-day shipping is so readily available for anything that might seem like a good idea right now.

  2. Craig

    Convenience is very addicting. I really find it hard to give up a lot of stuff. but your totally right, focusing on what you gain overall is a huge help and way better tool for convincing people.
    Pushing why all the things they have been sold as improvements to their life may actually not be is very important. I first started to realize this when I first read Mark Boyle’s moneyless man and he talked out the unequal exchange between the time we spend working to afford conveniences, vs the time and experiences we gain doing things the more manual way.
    I will check out Digital Minimalism, as it sounds like a good book.

    1. Solarpunk Gnome Post author

      Yeah, I’ve heard it referred to as the “hedonic treadmill” before which seems apt. I suspect it’s the most important component to why we aren’t already living in some post-scarcity utopia given the ridiculous increase in productivity per capita we experienced in the 20th century.

      I’m hoping to have a short review up of Digital Minimalism soon, but it’s definitely worth a read. I don’t know that there was a lot of new information, but it was repackaged from a different point of view than I’d seen before. I’ll have to see if our library has Moneyless Man. It looks interesting.

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