The core belief of environmentalism is that we face a world of scarce resources so we’d better go about conserving them. In this the idea is no different from economics, we face a universe of scarce resources how best can we use them? The acknowledgement of scarcity being written into the very basics of economics, something that’s not scarce isn’t even an economic good.
The point that environmentalism fails upon and economics doesn’t is the consideration of our most precious, scarce, resource, our own time. Very few of us do in fact go into that long dark night bemoaning the length of time we’ve spent here – actually, the suicide statistics tell us exactly how many do. It is the efficient deployment of our time which matters the most, that very thing being ignored here:
Maidment, 38, is the founder of Plastic Free Hackney, a campaign to rid the east London borough of single-use plastic and has been serious about committing her family to plastic-free, zero-waste living for two years now. First to go was milk cartons. “That was an easy switch, we got a milkman.” Then came bamboo toothbrushes, swapping out supermarket shopping for the local greengrocer, and making deodorant, cleanser, moisturiser and handsoap at home.
How much time does all of that take? How much of that precious resource is expended on this?
Now, there was a time – roughly pre-1750 in Britain – when every housewife had to do this sort of thing, make all those goodies at home. Then we shifted that production off to factories thereby making ourselves massively richer in the only manner that actually matters – we had more time to do as we wished. Now, if someone wants to return to the housewifely routine of old, that 60 hours a week of labour just to run a domestic set up then good luck to her. Utility, how we desire to spend our lives, is entirely personal of course.
But why is it that absolutely every environmentalist, each and all environmental suggestions, entirely ignores the costs of our more precious and limited resource, our own time?