Last week I wrote a little rant about how tired I am of America pretending that it can solve the environmental crisis by having each person make individual green decisions. Now the question becomes, if individual choice isn't going to change the environment, what will.
Well, the way I see it, there are three different ways to change the world:
- Inform people of the problem and show them ways in which they can help to fix the problem. Then hope that they take your advice, even if it's contrary to their interest. (i.e. change your lightbulbs)
- Inform people of the problem and then regulate industry and consumerism to promote solutions. (i.e. make old lightbulbs illegal)
- Regard the inherent inefficiencies in the system, and promote new technologies that will become solutions (i.e. make better lightbulbs.)
So we have 1. Personal choice 2. Government regulation and 3.Technology. Those are the three forces, broadly, that can change the world. All three of them are great, but only one of them has the transformative power that we need.
Ten years ago, buying a CD was your only choice. No one knew that they had any interest in doing it any other way. Record companies made token efforts to ask people politely not to copy and share CDs. It happened, but they didn't mind. Music was a physical package, not the songs themselves.
The one thing they didn't want to have happen was for the internet to get big enough that people would sell digital files instead of physical CDs. That would be a disaster, and in 1998 they were doing everything they could to hide from it, or actively stop it. Their research and development dollars were actually being spent attempting to stifle technology. So never let someone tell you that the market loves good technology...the market only loves technology that is good for established industries.