We have come to believe that more = better. Well your average second grade student can see that this cannot possibly be true. It is like saying that 2 = 4 or cat = dog. More does not equal better, it is just simply more. Better is better, and that is the “new” reality that we must come to grips with if we are to become a sustainable civilization. Let me give you some examples of how this mindset has affected our culture.
Food: In the late 60’s the USDA decided that the quantity of food that we produce needed to be increased. We set in motion policies that rewarded the massive production of food (mostly corn) so that it could be cheap and widely available. The result of these policies is food that is making us fat, sick and extremely unhealthy. More food is not better; better food is better.
Healthcare: In the US, we provide massive amounts of healthcare; as a matter of fact we spend more per capita than any other country on Earth. Yet, we consistently rank somewhere around 40th in health outcomes. I can tell you from personal experience as a frequent flyer in the healthcare system that more is certainly not better when it comes to medicine; better healthcare is better.
Transportation: In most US cities, and now in developing countries, more cars represent a sign of wealth and success. More cars, more streets, more gas stations, and bigger vehicles (SUV’s) has been our mantra for decades. In a world of limited natural resources (i.e. peak oil), more is not better, better transportation is better. In cities where public transportation is readily available, the average savings per household is $10,000 annually.
Guns: Given the recent tragic events of mass shootings, I have to address this misconception. More guns are not better. In a typical year, somewhere around 30,000 citizens in the US are killed by gun violence. That is the equivalent of a Boeing 747 crashing every week. Can you imagine the absolute crisis if a 747 was falling from the skies every week? I don’t know the answer to our gun culture problems, but I do know one thing – more guns in the hands of more people is not better for our society.
Homes: According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average home size in the US was 2700 square feet in 2009, up from 1400 square feet in 1970. That is 93% more home with 93% more stuff to fit into it. I am fairly certain that we are not 93% happier than people in 1970. More homes and more stuff is not better, it is just more.
There is no shortage of examples of this bad math in our culture. Sustainable homes, families, communities, countries, societies, economies, and environments rely on good math where more = more and better = better. Let’s hope that 2013 brings us to better.