Changing Borders, Changing Values?
13 Feb 2009 12:02:49
It seems to me that one of the hardest parts of transitioning to a low carbon economy may be the changing (voluntary or not) of many kinds of borders (international, societal and personal) and the effects that these changes have on human values, perceptions and paradigms.
Borders will be created, changed and removed. Their nature will change in terms of permeability, selectivity and medium. What impacts will these changes have on our societies and on our individual lives? How will we know what represents a positive change or a negative one before we’ve chosen it? Morality for sustainability is a subject I want to cover in the near future, but what I’d like to explore here are some of the ways in which these changing borders will affect our lives.
What kind of issues are we going to have to deal with? States/citizenry, land and resource ownership, , employment, sharing, privacy, personal data, trust, authority and collaboration are all issues we’re learning afresh with the rise of the internet. For example, my father had one job, in my life I expect to have about seven serious jobs, and my kids will probably have 10-15 at once! We’ve gone from having no personal information online to sharing our friends, social lives, day to day activities, emotions, personal information (and even more - even our location with the launch of Google's service) very rapidly and often with barely a second thought. Whether these changes in borders are positive or negative remains to be seen, but I certainly feel excited by the changes in the way we communicate, work and live that I’ve witnessed. How is being able to access immense amounts of data about everyone different from being able to access no data about anyone in terms of trust and risk? Our brains are wired for relative, not absolute so as long as the playing field remains level, what really changes?
I’ve used these examples of the internet to illustrate my point that we’re going to see our borders change again with the low carbon revolution. As our population and social complexity increases, we are going to have to share more and more to ensure there is enough of everything to go round. We know this when we get on a tube in London: we have to huddle ever more tightly together, or from another perspective, our personal space borders have receded. To tackle the transition to a low carbon economy, our borders are going to have to shift again. We’ll have to think differently about what it means to be part of a community, what we’re prepared to give up or share, and how we will make peace with these changes internally. These challenges are significant, including “(re)forming community, building capacity to engage with lack of awareness, apathy, complacency, fear, hostility, bureaucracy, inertia” (source: ) to which I’d add responsibility, collaboration and communication.
Where are you personal borders now? Would you be happy to share your water or electricity usage data with the world at large (anonymously or otherwise) in order to get cheaper electricity or to ensure your community has sufficient water to survive? Would you be prepared to pitch in with a community allotment in return for some free/cheap food? Where do you think your personal borders will lie in five years’ time? Or in ten? Who’s in your ‘trusted network’ now, and how do you think that will change in the future?
For what it’s worth, I believe that this changing of borders will not necessarily mean more or less freedom or quality of life in an empirical way (if such things can be measured empirically), but that our perception of these concepts will undergo a paradigm shift. I'd love to hear what others think!