This is a thought experiment inspired by the fact that the international quarantine efforts have also had the effect of reducing our environmental impact at least for as long as the lockdown lasts.

By “essential” I mean activities or things that humans need to survive and function on a basic level, so healthcare, basic nutritionally sufficient food, water, education, things like that. Those would be the only things you’re allowed to do or have in this situation. So no movies or TV shows, gaming, toys, luxury items or “status symbols”, decorations, Lemmy, etc. Basically no more entertainment or luxury. Things that already exist can still be used, but not if they require constant energy input (like non-essential websites or gaming consoles), and when they break, they much be disposed of in the least environmentally impactful way possible, but the main point is that we would no longer spend resources on making any more of them. Humanity would basically become as frugal as possible. This wouldn’t be returning to when humanity had no technology (that would actually increase our environmental impact and also cause needless suffering), but simply using and developing technology only in ways that aid our survival, nothing else.

By eliminating the things we don’t absolutely need, our environmental footprint would go way down, which would obviously be beneficial for the Earth and reduce the probability that humanity destroys itself by destroying the world we live in. Life would be dull in this scenario, and we’d basically be saying good bye to the modern entertainment saturated lifestyle enjoyed by many people, possibly forever. But in exchange we’d be giving us as a species the best shot at not going extinct from our own actions by reducing our actions to only those we can’t live without. It would also have the secondary effect of allowing us to focus our resources on things we actually need.

If hypothetically you could, would you choose to live in a world like this? What do you think of it?

By the way I didn’t use terms like climate crisis or carbon footprint because the climate, though a massive problem, isn’t the only one.


The biggest producers of greenhouse gases are electricity generation (of which heating / cooling are the biggest costs), transportation (mainly of consumer goods via the burning of fossil fuels required for trucks, cars, ocean freight, etc), agriculture, and industry. Entertainment, art, media, internet cost nothing compared to those things. I’d bet turning off heating / cooling for any given home for a single day would account for the electricity required for entertainment for the rest of the year.

We already have sustainable / renewable alternatives for all of the bigger ones too, especially electricity generation and food production.

I know I’m dodging your question lol, but there’s a tendency to push a lot of society-wide problems caused by global capitalist production onto individuals, asking them to reduce their consumption, when really the root problem is the organization of production for private profit rather than human needs. What we need is an organized, planned system of production that disallows environmentally harmful production and transportation techniques, and one that doesn’t value artificial scarcity and waste over environmentally conscious use of natural resources.


no way. the definition of essential seems unrealistic. are books allowed? fiction? is music non-essential? recordings? musical instruments?

is there still massive inequality in this world?


Yes, I think this would be a good idea, although I would define what is essential and what is not differently.

I’d say that the production of new entertainment products like gaming consoles are being put on hold. New games, however, are still fine to make. Also, more movies, music and art… and the like. I don’t think it would be a good idea to put culture on hold. It’s a big part of humanity. Relaxing with media is something we shouldn’t get rid of. Implementing such a radical change also means that we shouldn’t be too hard on our selves, or we will develop burnout and ruin our efforts. However, I think how we pull that off can be discussed. Disallowing music and video streaming for entertainment can be discussed if we really need that. But I guess that we can reduce it to a certain amount - we have the infrastructure anyway, and if we use it appropriately, I think it is fine.

Broken products are only allowed to be replaced if they are indeed not repairable. New products must be produced in a sustainable way: Modular, long-lasting, and easy to service and repair. By this alone, I think a big change would already be achieved.

Education would change drastically. We would actually start to prepare the small human beings for the world they will live in. We don’t throw products at them, but teach them to repair things, teach the philosophy, the art to discuss in an honest and fair way, more natural sciences, and we would not pressure them to any of this, but rather give a good example by ourselves and let them choose their education topics themselves. Children will follow that with their own motivation, leading to way better education.

Private transportation would be reduced to a minimum. A better public transport system with a combination of rails (waaaaay less friction -> waaaaaay less energy consumed) and automated busses on roads will be implemented. Transportation is the primary concern, the status of “owning a car” will be eliminated and car sharing will be normalized.

Very interesting post. I’m gonna think about that the whole day, I suppose. :D

Edit: I forgot the most important part: There would be an immediate and long session to find out what kind of knowledge there is to gain. Then, the studies will be planned and we go at it. The goal: How to make all this work, and which technologies to use to pull it off. We can’t just run into a random direction. We need to sit down and really think which direction we want to go.


the definition of the word “essential” is too broad

but in any case i would just choose to have less people


but in any case i would just choose to have less people

The problem with this: Most people agree, and almost all of them (we’re talking about 99,9999999999999999%) mean other people, not themselves, or their own family plans.

At some point, we have to talk about some kind of regulations about the amount of new children. Many people think that this is a taboo, something we are never allowed to do, but I guess as long as we are not able to reach other planets for colonization, it is inevitable.

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