“Intermittency, sufficiency, capping, and sourcing may appear unduly demanding, but probably no more so than the demands on those who created a nation or promoted industrialization or fought for abolition and against totalitarianism. Certainly these principles are at least sensible as the observation that there is just the right amount of water in the desert. This is because these principles are aimed at fit—at fitting human’s material system, its “economy,” to the requisites of Planet Earth, not the other way around. They all embrace a notion of limits, just as the earth and its inhabitants and its cycles of water and nutrients and seasons exhibit limits. And while they may apply at any scale—local, regional, national, international—they aim at place, at the very foundations of an economy. These principles thus lay primary groundwork for a home economy, from the local to the global”.
-Thomas Princen, Treading Softly (p. 77)
I find there are few that care and are passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle to help sustain the planet. The root of negligence towards our environment is due to the fact that the global thought of what is the current normal to live well. Progress, growth, efficiency, cheap, fast, consuming, are all values belonging to the current standard to live well. These values though have led us to the global predicament we find ourselves in today, growing scarcity of natural resources: water, oil, soil, clean air, food, and more, that are essential to sustain life. It is information that is essential to take note of and recognize. What is petrifying to the environmental movement is that the capitalist American ideology seems to think that these present values will get us out of this global tragedy: high prices in gas, the high rates in unemployment, the inflation of food, can be attributed to the current system.
It is the goal of this blog post to show why I agree with Princen Principles for a Home Economy, to construct a new world and new language that will outline effectively how to live well within our means in a finite planet because it is an ill idea to think we have unlimited resources, and if we continue to think in this pattern it will result in the wipe out of every valuable resource that is indispensably to sustain life. This underlying expression of negligence for new principles will end up completely extinguishing our life support—nature— and make Earth inhabitable for human beings. (I recognize that the solution for our current global crisis is more complex than just coming up with a new norm and adopting it, but for reasons of time constraint to explore vastly on the topic, I plan to focus on what I feel is the most important key to aid us in shifting to a more sustainable planet. The aim is to discuss the sufficiency, source, capping, and intermittency principles for a home economy that outline effectively how to live well within our means in a finite planet).
To begin with, the sufficiency principle as Princen explains is the best value to adopt if we desire to sustain the world’s resources from scarcity and eventually wipeout. Our global population mainstream fundamental doctrine of growth is immensely affecting and destroying our planet; the home of humans, animals, plants, et al. Growth doesn’t understand the concept of “enoughness “or to “muchness.” Growth aims solely at excess, instilling in human thought more food, more clothes, and more toys, more everything— as well as big car, house, and such— is better. This thought that exist within the principle of the present norms is unreliable if people demand to live well now and into the indefinite future in a finite planet. Like Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
However, the sufficiency principle presented by Princen, cares for humans, plant, animals, and in the larger scopes our planet Earth’s sustainability, because it introduces the ideology that aims at the individual’s consciousness of when it is enough or when you’re over-consuming. “Intuitively, it is that sense of enoughness and too-muchness. It is a sense of self evident at two extremes of the scale. At the individual level when we’ve gotten enough sleep or eaten too much; at the planetary level, from the astronaut’s view, we see that the earth’s thin skin of life, like our own skin, can be perturbed a bit, but certainly not too much.” (Princen 73) With the sufficiency principle people can adopt a new way of living well within their means and consequently avoid furthermore disturbing the environment.
For instance, research has shown that the increasing demand of more oil and gas is hurting our environment dramatically, especially because of the inescapable air pollution issue that cause monstrous damage to our planet and its inhibitors as stated in the EPA.gov website: “Air emissions associated with oil and gas production can significantly impact air quality and impair visibility.” (Envirmental Protecting Agency 28) We need to understand that we have extracted already enough oil from our planet to cause a significant amount of pollution to natural resources such as air. We need to consciously accept we do not have an unlimited source of oil. If we acknowledge that information we could easily adopt the principle of sufficiency and ditch the old growth principle in our present political economy. This aim of excess is not only hurting the planet it also is extinguishing a natural source. We need to implement the sufficiency principle in our lives because our daily life is telling us oil, a finite natural source from the planet, is becoming scarce. Our daily lives tells us when we go to the corner gas station to fill up our car gas tank and reminisce of the good old days when gas was so cheap. The link between the demand for growth in the production of oil and gas and the high prices of oil and gas reflect the issue of scarcity in the natural source. “The increase in the trend component of oil prices suggests that the global oil market has entered a period of increased scarcity. The analysis of the demand and supply prospects for crude oil suggests the increased scarcity arises from the continued tension between rapid growth in oil demand in emerging market economies and the downshift of oil supply trend growth” (International Monetary Fund 90).
On the contrary, one may refuse this new principle because of the ubiquitous question: Won’t sufficiency hurt the economy? People support growth because they have this notion that maintaining a growing economy will get us out of the global environmental crisis: High prices on food, gas, unemployment, et al. This principle is outdated and doesn’t fit in with our present issue. Realism tells us that the present principles within the political economy act as if we have multiple planets to burn up. As Princen stated, “The creation of a sustainable economy requires that the juggernaut be stopped before it is too late, and overhauled, if not junked together. Then we need to build a new vehicle. For that we need new principles, just as trading nations needed new principles after the grand failure of the old mercantilist trading order. And just as old principles wouldn’t do then, the principles of efficiency, growth, consumers-rule, out-of-sight-out-of-mind, and bigger-faster-cheaper won’t do now. We need principles that fit the needs of time—namely, living on the regenerative capacities of current resources and waste links. In short, we need new principles that are ‘ecological constant,’ attuned to how ecosystems actually function” (Princen 68-69). Thus to answer the pervasive question that attacks the sufficiency principle formally is that in realism one sees that sufficiency is not hurting the economy whatsoever, it’s the old principle of growth within the political economy that doesn’t fit with the needs of times that is destroying the economy and with it the planet. Growth will eventually wipe out every natural source that the political economy sells. So one must ponder when this question consumes your mind, how can the very principles (growth, fast, cheaper, over-consumption, bigger, efficiency) that got us in this current quandary be the very same principles that will get us out?
Furthermore, I would like to discuss the prudent Source principle for a Home Economy Princen presents. Discussed earlier was our need for natural resources in order for life to continue on Earth. We have argued previously how the present growth principle seeks out surreptitiously to put to extinction these natural resources, so what can we do to preserve the ultimate sources? According to Princen in his book, Treading Softly, “Spiritually speaking, ultimate sources are sacred. To sacrifice an ultimate resource is a sacrilege. In contrast, to sacrifice the benefits otherwise derived from using up an ultimate source—to refrain from stripping topsoil, from draining an aquifer, from driving an organism to extinction, from opening the ozone layer, all for commercial gain—to sacrifice these benefits is to elevate human action. It is to reach form of restraint in humans’ material relations, to find humans’ place in nature. (Princen 76-77) So the essential key to the answer is human restraint. The term “sacred” used to describe an ultimate source makes one understand the concept of how atrocious it would be to use up a natural ultimate source that it is irreplaceable. One natural source we have ceased and can never be replaced is the Arctic and this due to our excess on gas and oil, our negligence to practice restraint, and most importantly our failure to protect vital natural sources. “Consider that so far humans have burned enough coal and gas and oil to raise the temperature one degree Celsius. That’s the equivalent of about ¾ of watt of extra solar energy per square meter of the earth’s surface. Which doesn’t sound like much—less than one small white Christmas tree light per square meter. But it turns out there’s a lot of square meters, and so the heat trapped by our carbon is the equivalent of exploding 400,000 Hiroshima sized bombs every day. That’s been enough energy, so far, to melt the Arctic—the latest satellite data shows that 80% of the summer sea ice that covered the north when, say, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon has now vanished” (Mckibben). One should treat the ultimate source like a gift, you will never get one like it ever again as a result you will treat it will the grandest respect and preserve it forever. Thus the Source principle states that, “it is prudent to preserve the source” (Princen 76), It is the most logical principle to adopt, if you preserve the source there is no way you could destroy the source. Consequently leaving us with a sustainable earth where your grandchildren kids will know what a glacier is.
Yet, one would argue that it’s a hard sacrifice. It would be hard to preserve the atmosphere because how can one give up driving when my job is an hour away. Or it’s hard to preserve energy because humans need electricity like we need blood in our veins. Or it’s hard to preserve water because humans love long showers, big green lawns, and washing dishes with constant flow of water. There are many more real life scenarios of why one will argue it’s hard! To answer to the proposed argument yes it is hard if you don’t ditch the old out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle perspective. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be beneficial. Essentially the hard sacrifice is in reality what Princen refers to as positive sacrifice because it benefits you, others, animals, plants, and the planet. Princen explain in his book, Treading Softly, how sacrificing these fast-cheap-big benefits ,” …elevates human action….it is to achieve purpose in life, to connect with the larger world, to gain meaning by protecting the means to the good life, especially the ultimate means which, in the material, ecological world are sources.” (Princen 77) Once you understand how glorious it would be to substitute a present principle with new principle— because it respects the ultimate sources that are essential to life on the only planet we got—the sacrifice will no longer appear before you as hard, it will transform into positive sacrifice that gives your life meaning and purpose.
Additionally, the Capping Principle, is one principle that is in effect and but needs to broaden in order to be effective. The problem is that current cap-and-trade programs are not used sufficiently enough and continuously arouses disputes about cap levels during policy making. Emission levels often times fall to sub-standard levels and according to The Capping Principle, “are only one realm where biophysical capacity limits must be matched by caps on human activity to ensure long-term resource use” (Princen 74). According to this principle of Princen’s harvest rates, water use, the withdrawal rate, as well as: consumption, technologies, GDP, and trade. While these Caps on usage of resources would not be unreasonable some would argue that to limit human activity and consumption limits human capabilities for development. “At the other end of the spectrum, there are activities and substances that, having no inherent ecological content, require no capping. Freedom, artistic expression, democratic participation, human rights, parental love, and sport are examples. Every activity in between requires some kind of limitation, some kind of check to function within the ecological capacities on which that activity depends” (Princen 75). Thus, human activity would be given a scenario in which it would thrive within its means, these less limiting activities would be given more attention, all the while being ecologically friendly activities with human prosperity in mind. This would be a “sustainable practice” creating a nurturing ecological way of living, by setting caps on how much production is taking place. “Conversely not to impose caps, even on distal processes such as technology or consumption, is to invite depletion and irreversible diminution of ecosystem services” (Princen 75). These caps would detail limitations on usage as opposed to the current economic standard for activities such as harvest and also should include the total eradication of non-ecological waste that is produced having “no place in an ecological order.” Introducing and implementing caps across a broad spectrum of human activity is necessary in order to move forward into a Home Economy, this introduces the idea of being considerate and maturing towards ecologically friendly action.
Lastly, Intermittency is the most important principle in the Home Economy one needs to consider because it inspires an economy that is economical, ecological, social, and psychological—thus it is what Princen calls a mature economy. According to Princen, “A mature economy would indeed be economical, ecologically socially, psychologically. It would demand of it participants, its producers and consumers, as much as they demand of it” (Princen 71). The Intermittency principle exposes our immature and spoiled rotten ways, which have created what Princen calls “immature” and “wasteful” economy. According to Princen, “What energy experts see is, at, best, a juvenile world, one where every impulse must be answered, every craving addressed, every desire satisfied. An economy so structured is an immature economy, one that takes as normal only what machines (if they can think) and immature humans would see as normal. It is a use-it-up-and-buy-some-more economy that is not economical at all. It is a wasteful economy, hugely wasteful, and not just of resources but people’s ability to participate, to connect, to find meaningful work” (Princen 70). Our immature and spoiled ways have us with a solipsistic worldview. Also our ways have been the root of the continuous destruction of our planet. The mainstream global thought of what is normal, “should never wait, never be without, never plan ahead” (Princen 70); has disconnected us with realism. This puts us at odds with the planet and the environment because we are demanding too much of a finite planet. This high demand of continuous service from our environment is the root cause of the present scarcity of natural sources for instance, water. “A major study, the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture, reveals that one in three people today face water shortages (CA, 2007). Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers)” (2007 World Water Day 4). It will be catastrophic when the day comes where we have used up the ultimate water sources but very predictable because of our current luxurious lifestyle many refuse to sacrifice— these lifestyles continuously demand without letting the natural source regenerate consequentially leading into wipe-out of the source.
Moreover, one should be eager to ditch principle of consumers-rule and welcome with open arms the intermittency principle because it is the absolute common sense answer to what actually is normal. As Princen explains, “An intermittency principle thus says that ecological services need not be continuous, let alone ever-abundant and cheap. Instead they should fluctuate with natural social rhythms” (Princen 71). If one would act now upon the intermittency principle, “fluctuate with natural and social rhythms,” one will attune with nature and see that a continuous year round demand for fruits and vegetables is unnatural. For instance, one should only expect kiwi when it’s in season, which is in summer. On the other hand, People who hold the ideology of the present immature economy principles could pose the argument: what if they need to dry clothes, but since its winter weather has been unsteady with sunshine, thus the intermittency principle would not work. This “toddler” like attitude Princen calls, of I-need- and –want- it- now- no –matter- the –cost, makes for a uneconomical economy. So the answer to this counterargument would be we need to stop acting like spoiled little monsters and grow up! We need to grow up to realize that to fit the demands from nature will ensure our life support. According to Princen, demands from nature and demands from those who need help: this is the true demand, at once reciprocal and economical the mark of mature economy and mature policy. And I dare to say it makes good common sense. Moreover, this demand says there is no pride in being treated like a machine, no good reason to live like spoiled brats” (Princen 71).
It has been the purpose of this blog post to show why I agree with Princen Principles for a Home Economy, to construct a new world and new language that will outline effectively how to live well within our means in a finite planet because it is an ill idea to think we have unlimited resources, and if we continue to think in this pattern it will result in the wiping out of every valuable resource that is indispensable to sustain life. I discussed the sufficiency, source, capping, and intermittency principles for a home economy Princen presented as a step towards ensuring our life support. Sufficiency was the principle that exercised the practice of doing well by doing a little less than possible. The source principle was all about protecting an ultimate sources for reasons of scarcity and thus to sustain life on earth. The capping principle was the practice to let ultimate sources regenerate to ensure sustainability. Lastly, the Intermittency principle in training would put in place a mature economy that cares for the environment. Moreover, the aim of the paper was to raise a call for immediate action to adopt these new principles and ditch the old ones—that have gotten us in this awful predicament. We are heading for global doom if we continue living with the ideology that these present principles fit the needs of time. we have waited a very long, long, long time to resolve this global environmental crisis issue and thus I bring about how essential it is to act now on ditching your present principles adopting new principles that fit the needs of time the I now will leave, you the reader, with a powerful quote, by Mahatma Gandhi, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another”.
2007 World Water Day . "http://www.unwater.org/downloads/escarcity.pdf." 22 March 2007. WorldWaterDay07.org. October 2013.
Envirmental Protecting Agency . "http://www.epa.gov/sectors/pdf/oil-gas-report.pdf." September 2008. www.epa.gov. October 2013.
International Monetary Fund. WORLD ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: TENSIONS FROM THE TWO-SPEED RECOVERY. Washington, DC: INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND , 2011.
Mckibben , Bill, perf. God's Taunt . The Riverside Church , 2013. Film. 13 Oct 2013. <http://citationmachine.net/index2.php?reqstyleid=1&mode=form&reqsrcid=MLAFilmVideo&srcCode=19&more=yes&nameCnt=1>.
Princen, Thomas. Treading Softly. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2010.
"I am a current student at San Francisco State University majoring in Political Science. What interested me about political science was my strong passion to achieve social justice. Another passion of mine is nature. I love being submerge myself in nature as much as possible; like going to the beach and hearing the powerful waves clash into each other, or simply going on a hike and observing the beautiful scenery that surrounds me. Thus, I have been attracted to the global environmental crisis.Other than that I enjoy the company of friends and family, intellectual conversations, reading Socrates-Plato, Mexican culture, and POLITICS".