Whenever my Dad fills up his car with petrol he notes down how much he put in and his latest mileage in a little notebook. And, every now and then, he sits down and works out how the car’s performing. He’s an engineer. That’s what they do. They pay attention to things. And it strikes me that attention is going to be very important in understanding, and doing something about, the size of our footprints on the planet. Because you never do anything about things you don’t notice.
And that’s what’s rather exciting about technology at the moment. Oh, I know, all us econutters are supposed to be against technology and its relentless inhuman crushing of the little flowers and animals, but that sort of knee-jerk silliness won’t get us anywhere. There are technologies out there that’ll help us monitor our footprints – and therefore get us doing something. Look at a website like www.walkit.com - stick in a couple of locations and it’ll show you the best walking route and tell you how much carbon you’re not using if you walk it. Or a device like Wattson will keep an eye on how much electricity you’re using. And then you can feed that into a site like www.pachube.com and start to share your data with the world (though you have to be a bit geeky at the moment). Even RFID chips – those little tracking tags that generate so many privacy worries – could be a great help here. They could give each item we make, buy or consume a unique identity – allowing us to measure it, monitor it, make sure it’s energy responsible. Even that little camera in your phone is a potentially world-changing device – the best first step to improving the world is noticing, capturing and sharing the way it actually is, in all its tiny lovely detail.
Technology is not the enemy. Inattention and waste are the enemy. If you don’t notice your footprints you won’t clean them up. So remember to take notes and use whatever tools can to keep you paying attention.
Words: Russell Davies
Illustration: Nic Burrows