What is Compression?
Compression refers to the squeeze on earth and its ecology from growth of the human population and growth consuming huge amounts of resources. To dramatically reduce the human “footprint” we need to make huge reductions in use of: energy, especially of fossil fuels; extracted minerals, dispersed toxins, and discarded “garbage.”
Compression is intended to be an integrative term. It refers to:
Compression when population growth packs us ever tighter on a finite planet
Compressing our use of raw resources, which implies compressing our consumption of them.
Compressing waste out of all work processes, eliminating everything unnecessary for the benefit of humans or nature (very broad definition of waste).
Compressing work organizations’ learning cycles: Learn a lot more faster, integrate what is learned, and put it into action.
Compression is the art and science of improving quality of life while greatly reducing the usage of resources and eliminating all toxins: Do better with less. (Not more with less.)
We underestimate the magnitude of the changes needed to preserve quality of all life while using much, much less. Humanity has long exceeded the level of consumption that puts us out of balance with nature. A rough estimate how unbalanced has been called a global “footprint.” This approximation is well known, but our determination to take action remains weak.
To illustrate how drastic our action must be, Doc Hall four years ago did a back-of-the envelope calculation on usage of fossil fuel energy. About 75% of all traded energy was consumed by advanced economies, roughly 1.5 billion people. The rest of humanity, about 6 billion people, get along on the other 25%. They can’t do much drastic cutting and stay alive, much less enjoy a better quality of life.
So the big cuts have to come from advanced economies. Like whack fossil fuel usage by 80% with some of the loss taken up by alternative energy. So far these cuts have been very modest. Economic growth rides on energy, and the economic system does not know what else to do. Considering all the other problems, here’s a challenge the Compression Institute once put out:
By 2040 globally develop a quality of life somewhat like industrial societies today, but using less than half the virgin raw materials and less than half the energy as in the year 2000, and with no known toxic releases.
That’s an enormous transformation in only a couple of decades. To seriously go for it, we need a total overhaul of our myths and mindsets. Otherwise, we’ll offset our cutbacks with economic growth.