April 28, 2020

Building a Better World in Your Backyard Instead of Being Angry at Bad Guys. {Part 2}

An excerpt from Paul Wheaton’s book, Building A Better World In Your Backyard Instead Of Being Angry At Bad Guys. This is chapter 32, “Hey! You Know What Would Be Cool?”


Read part one here


Over your entire lifetime, you can sort out who to be angry at for making a big mess.

You can tell thousands of people who to be angry at, and it will probably result in very little tangible change.

A few people will write letters, attend protests, or perform massive gestures. That might make a slight bit more difference—but that’s a rigged playing field where the people who have an alternative view to yours are extremely well prepared to minimize your voice.

It seems our human nature is that once we have sorted out that there is a problem, we think we need to get the people who caused the problem to stop causing the problem. That makes sense. Of course, it turns out that “the problem” is about a thousand times more complicated than we originally thought. Nearly all of these massive problems are caused, indirectly, by us. By you. And when we get angry at “them” it turns out that we paid “them” to create this problem. And there were almost always alternatives, but we voted with our wallets for the bigger environmental disaster. Usually, due to clever marketing.

The problem is ourselves. We need to own our own sh*t. We need to clean our own backyard and stop feeding the monsters that are, in turn, harming (and even killing) our friends and families.

If we stop giving money to the monsters, they stop being monsters.

I once tried to share with an internet group how a rocket mass heater is the most environmentally friendly way to heat a conventional home. An anonymous person objected, pointing out that nothing is as clean as electric heat. What this person was missing was knowledge. There it is. The most important thing in solving all of the world’s problems: Knowledge! Knowledge is the difference between drudgery and strategic action. Knowledge about the problems, and knowledge about the solutions. If we are going to ask one hundred million people to help solve these problems, we need to openly share the problems and a set of spiffy solutions that can be done at home.

Remember “The Wheaton Eco Scale”? There is another observation I need to share. Most people at level two are confident that the scale pretty much ends with a handful of superstars at level four. I think the only reason that people are not aware of levels five through 10, is that there is not a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for the things at the higher levels.

For example, the rocket mass heater is a massive leap forward in solving problems. Ernie Wisner has built over 700 rocket mass heaters, and he was deeply involved in their development. He’s pissed:

“When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. She lied. As is, the rocket mass heater solves so many things for so many people. And there is huge room for optimization. But the world appears hyper focused on trivial things. A toy will come out and become an overnight sensation—effortlessly. And a handful of us will put thousands of hours of effort into getting the word out about rocket mass heaters, and the response is relative silence.” ~ Ernie Wisner

Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater can displace a carbon footprint more than permanently parking seven cars. An electric car has half the carbon footprint of a gasoline-powered car. So a rocket mass heater can reduce a carbon footprint by as much as 14 Teslas.

You might not buy a Tesla this year, but you have probably researched it a bit. And you’ve probably talked to a friend or two about it. That’s progress! Knowledge of a solution!

You might not build a rocket mass heater this year, but you can take some time to learn about them. And maybe you can visit with some friends about them. That’s 14 times more progress!

It seems clear that people are willing to work hard to make things better for everybody—yay! But…their passion and effort seem to be mostly in light bulbs (which actually make things worse), or electric cars (which make things better, but not nearly as much as they hope). Maybe those wonderful, passionate people would be more effective if they knew about more solutions. And maybe the next time someone famous makes a movie about global problems, they will tack on a little something about rocket mass heaters and gardening.

Most Americans have racked up a lifetime of debt. Decency mandates paying those debts. Hundreds of millions of decent people commute to a job five days a week to whittle away at those debts and try to not feel so much like a slave to their past choices.

Many people go to their job, day after day, with a feeling of “I have to.” I hope that with the ideas in this book, that feeling has changed to “this is part of my bigger plan.” And that in a few years you can retire to a Gert-like world where your days are filled with the phrase “Hey! You know what would be cool?…”


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