a little adds up to a lot,” if all those “littles” are somehow focused into a
single “lot” – for example, if one million people donate £10 to one accident-
victim, then the victim receives £10 million. That’s a lot. But power is a
very different thing. We all use power. So to achieve a “big difference”
in total power consumption, you need almost everyone to make a “big”
difference to their own power consumption.

So, what’s required are big changes in demand and in supply. Demand
for power could be reduced in three ways:

  1. by reducing our population (figure 19.2);
  2. by changing our lifestyle;
  3. by keeping our lifestyle, but reducing its energy intensity through
    “efficiency” and “technology.”

Supply could be increased in three ways:

  1. We could get off fossil fuels by investing in “clean coal” technology.
    Oops! Coal is a fossil fuel. Well, never mind – let’s take a look at
    this idea. If we used coal “sustainably” (a notion we’ll define in a
    moment), how much power could it offer? If we don’t care about
    sustainability and just want “security of supply,” could coal offer
  2. We could invest in nuclear fission. Is current nuclear technology
    “sustainable”? Is it at least a stop-gap that might last for 100 years?
  3. We could buy, beg, or steal renewable energy from other countries
    – bearing in mind that most countries will be in the same boat as
    Britain and will have no renewable energy to spare; and also bearing
    in mind that sourcing renewable energy from another country
    doesn’t magically shrink the renewable power facilities required. If
    we import renewable energy from other countries in order to avoid
    building renewable facilities the size of Wales in our country, someone
    will have to build facilities roughly the size of Wales in those
    other countries.

The next seven chapters discuss first how to reduce demand substantially,
and second how to increase supply to meet that reduced, but still “huge,”
demand. In these chapters, I won’t mention all the good ideas. I’ll discuss
just the big ideas.

Cartoon Britain

To simplify and streamline our discussion of demand reduction, I propose
to work with a cartoon of British energy consumption, omitting lots of
details in order to focus on the big picture. My cartoon-Britain consumes

While the footprint of each individual cannot be reduced to zero, the absence of an individual does do so.

Chris Rapley, former Director of the British Antarctic Survey

We need fewer people, not greener ones.

Daily Telegraph, 24 July 2007

Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation.

Isaac Asimov

Figure 19.2. Population growth and emissions... Cartoon courtesy of Colin Wheeler.