My RIOT story

Someone in the Deep Adaptation group posted a question that boils down to, Is it really possible to live in such a manner as to bring our net emissions down to zero? And if so, what would that look like?

I responded:

Thank you for starting this thread! Good questions you raise.

Around 2004, I got the idea to try to live in such a manner that, if everyone were living at a similar footprint, it would be “low enough” for human life on earth to be sustainable. I had no scientific background, no ecological training (other than spending a lot of time out in nature), had not yet studied the concepts of “embodied energy” and “energy return on energy invested” (would learn those later, in permaculture design classes).

But I just “knew” that solar panels, various techno fixes, etc, were not going to save us. I felt that the key was just … radically reduce!

I was totally operating on intuition. Just trying to have the smallest possible footprint. Since I never was into having a lot of stuff or living a typical USA lifestyle, it was a natural direction for me.

Around 2007 I “met” some fellow bloggers who had started a grassroots movement of people aiming to live at 10% of the average USA American’s footprint. They had actually figured out metrics and everything! And I found out that my low-footprint mode was pretty much in line w the metrics they had figured out.

(The metrics were/are in categories: water use, electricity use, gasoline consumption, consumer goods purchased, food footprint, volume of trash discarded, etc.)

This movement was (is) called the Riot for Austerity (also known as the 90 Percent Reduction Challenge), and it is still going on, although its online community is not as active as it was at one point.

BTW the metrics adopted by the people who started this movement were based on a book by George Monbiot called Heat: How To Stop the Planet from Burning. Monbiot, a climate activist and journalist who has studied the science in depth, says we need to reduce our per-capita footprint to 6 percent of the average USA resident’s. Now, Monbiot’s book was not suggesting household-level changes; it was more about what governments needed to do in the way of policy, infrastructure etc to bring this about.

It was the Riot folks who translated his concept into household-level metrics. (The Riot rounded it to 10 percent for simplicity’s sake.)

The vast majority of people on the planet are already living at a tiny fraction of the average USA resident’s footprint. The Riot for Austerity movement is a call to action for those of us living in the USA and other wealthy industrialized nations.

Although, as I mentioned, the online community is not as active as it was at one point, many of us have found good company, and even enjoyment and a sense of purpose and adventure, in this movement.

I sense that many fellow RIOTers are, like me, very much on a path of Deep Adaptation.

(To check out the discussion thread, join the Deep Adaptation group and do a search on “Riot for Austerity.” Lots of people are giving very thoughtful responses to this thread.)

Further Reading:

• “One Tonne of Carbon per Year – This is what net zero carbon looks like” (RosalindReadHead blog — suggested by one of the people commenting on the DA thread I mentioned). Another approach to right-sizing footprint. I will need to learn more — become more “carbon-literate” — in order to be able to calculate my footprint using this approach. The writer is running for Mayor of London on a platform that includes radical de-carbonization.

How Bad Are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything (book and website), by Mike Berners-Lee. This book, mentioned by people in the DA thread and by RosalindReadHead on her blog, is now on my reading list. Berners-Lee is also author of other books, including There Is No Planet B.