Definition of Economic

There was a great presentation at a Wales Zero / Low Carbon Hub meeting this year and it mentioned the original definition for Economic. It comes from the Latin Oeconomicus and means management of the household. This is obviously quite different from our current meaning based almost purely on finances.

In the wider sense it is easy to extrapolate ‘household’ to ‘world’ given the current state of globalism. So do Economics need to be purely about money? After all, as the picture above illustrates, what would we prioritise about our homes? Probably:

  • Cleanliness
  • Comfort
  • Health
  • We probably would not want:

  • Disruption
  • Mess
  • Stress
  • Conflict

  • Yet, we are encouraged to behave in our global household in a manner that pursues material gain and money. How disconnected we have become from what we fundamentally know to be important (the power of advertising and corporations eh!). The pursuit of ‘monetary wealth’ adds to our carbon emissions and hence will help bring about future chaos predicted by the IPCC.

    The IPCC state that we have to reduce carbon emissions by around a 80% reduction by 2050 if we are to avoid a >2 degree rise in global temperatures (this is seen as a tipping point in the climate). So in theory we have to reduce the carbon emissions of our 1.3 million households in Wales by 80% by 2050. This means radical improvements at a rate of around 36,000 houses per annum (in Wales we have the ARBED programme and this huge ‘improvement’ project is only tackling around 1,000 per annum!)

    As you may have gathered from reading this blog, getting reductions of 80% in emissions from older terraces is just not viable. It has been done with some TSB Retrofit for the Future projects but they are really expensive and also rely on people living in the buildings in an efficient manner. So what can we do? After all, doing nothing will just help to create an uneconomic situation (think of the issues and costs associated with a >2 degree rise in temperature: mass migration, water shortages, crop failure, flooding, forest fires, sea level rises, ocean acidification, disease spread etc). I think that we are limited to a few options.

    1. Improve our homes to as good a condition as possible (this may only be 20-40% and may be achieved through simple draught proofing, insulation, efficient boilers etc)
    2. Maintain our homes (check rainwater goods, repair silicone seals, repair cracks etc)
    3. Use lower energy materials (wood fibre, recycled insulation, lime etc)
    4. Service infrastructure annually (boilers, mechanical vents)
    5. Install renewable energy generation where possible (PV panels are now much more affordable and provide a good rate of return financially)
    6. Manage energy use wisely (for example only heat areas that you need to a temperature that is as low as feasible)
    7. Think about how we use energy and what we really need rather than what we want
    8. Reduce water consumption with some simple and cheap retrofit devices
    9. Change your energy supply over to a green tariff

    We have the potential for greater impact outside of our homes though. How about?

    1. Walk and cycle wherever you can
    2. Use public transport
    3. Buy things that you actually need rather than what you want
    4. Invest in quality goods rather than throwaway goods
    5. Holiday close to home
    6. Only travel when you need to
    7. Buy foods that are in season (in the UK) or if not grown in the UK when in season in the northern hemisphere
    8. Grow your own food at home / allotment
    9. Get an electric car (second hand electric cars are now well under £10,000 for a 5 door)
    10. Invest in some community renewable projects
    11. Keep fit

    It is essential that we practice old school ‘economics’ in our lives and this means both looking after our own households, but also the our wider home of the planet. The time to act is now so that we can all help to avoid the costs, heartaches and resource demands of an unsustainable, uneconomic future.

    Do your bit and do think about your children / grandchildren. It is worth it economically, just maybe not financially in the immediate future. That is our choice to make.