Thursday, September 15, 2011

People Vote For Washing Machines


Some years ago, in China, I was met at the airport by a man who was taking me to a speaking engagement.  In the parking lot, before unlocking his new and meticulously cared-for automobile, he placed a hand on its roof and said with quiet pride, "This is my car."

In that instant, I saw two things:

First, that my contact had earned that car with his own honest labor and had good reason to be proud of his accomplishment.

And second, that any hopes we may have of solving the energy crisis that involve China or any of the poor countries of the Earth voluntarily curbing their desires for American/European levels of prosperity are nothing but pipe dreams.

I've been thinking about that moment ever since.  In the video above, Hans Rosling expands quite movingly on this same basic insight.



skyknyt said...

My dad, a pretty devout believer in Buckminster Fuller, thought the problem with our rising energy use was requiring people to continue working after machines had taken their jobs. "We have the productivity and capability to let them stay home and think and write and talk. All these cars would be off the streets if they didn't have to drive to work!"

Michael Swanwick said...

Your father was brilliant. I cannot help but think of all those old men in the cafes of Florence and Cairo, talking passionately about politics and ideas, and of how happy we would all be if we could spend several hours of our own days doing the same.