YOU are responsible

An intriguing guest post from Schalk Cloete.


Schalk is the author of the Blog One in a Billion which describes itself as ‘A DIY guide to saving our world while building a happy, healthy and wealthy life.‘  The Billion in the title refers to ‘the billion wealthiest world citizens, are creating serious global problems through our unsustainable consumption habits.’

As the Blog’s About page explains,

My name is Schalk Cloete, a South African research scientist currently living and working in Norway. Officially, my research is centered around the mathematical modelling of fluidized bed reactors; something which makes nice pictures, but which is not exactly the most brilliant blog material. I will therefore not bore you with further details about the kinetic theory of granular flows.

Nope, the material I write about here; building a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life within our affluent modern society, should be much more interesting. I use the word “building” quite a lot because that is exactly what needs to be done. One literally needs to build the environment within which one functions from day to day with the same level of diligence and attention to detail one would use to build a house.

Anyway, with no further ado, let me go to Schalk’s guest post.


YOU are responsible

Not so long ago, Paul left a very thought-provoking comment on my blog: the One in a Billion project, and suggested that my response to that comment was worth publishing as a guest post on Learning from Dogs. Needless to say, I gratefully accepted this generous offer!  Before we go any further though, I’d just like briefly to describe my blog so that the comment can be seen in perspective.

The principle objective of my blog is to advocate personal lifestyle change as a lasting solution to the pressing sustainability problems we are facing today.

The rationale behind this overall theme is threefold:

  1. Our current systems are fundamentally guaranteed to collapse (more about this here)
  2. A personal lifestyle change is the one and only sustainable solution to this impending crisis (further detail can be found here)
  3. Such personal lifestyle changes towards sustainable living are the one and only road to lasting health, wealth and happiness.

So, on that backdrop, here was Paul’s comment:

Any successful attempt at reversing and correcting the perilous journey humanity is on has to focus on the nature of change, how humans change, why the change required in this case is psychologically complex, and how the reward feedback process has to work. In my opinion these are the core issues to be tackled.

And my response:

Change is driven by a complex set of internal and external triggers that influence our consciousness every second of every day. If these triggers collectively indicate to a person (based on his or her unique subjective interpretations and subconscious filters) that some alternative is more attractive or that the current reality is unacceptable, motivation for change is granted. The exact nature of the change that this project requests is a change in day-to-day lifestyle choices which stems from shaping a person’s interpretation and filtering of the various internal and external triggers to accurately represent the reality that a lifestyle aimed at sustainable happiness is infinitely more attractive than one focused on consumerism.

This project tries to motivate people to take action by strongly emphasizing on the immediate personal benefits of making these lifestyle changes, the ease with which these changes can be made (and made permanent), the short and long term hazards of not making these changes and the moral obligation we have to the poor and to future generations to make these changes.

The change is psychologically complex because the entire environment we live in today just begs us to consume at ever increasing rates. This is the reason why this project repeatedly emphasizes on the construction of micro-environments to protect against this toxic macro-environment and make the correct actions natural and automatic. On a higher level, change is psychologically complex because we now have to abandon a system that has raised our standard of living tremendously while we still had abundant cheap fossil fuels and a limitless planet. Our most powerful weapon has turned into our greatest threat and it should come as no surprise that we seem totally unable to handle that.

The reward-feedback process in the One in a Billion initiative is actually quite interesting. As stated before, a lot of emphasis is placed on the immediate rewards of making certain lifestyle choices, but the thing that makes it really interesting is the holistic and complementary nature of this plan. Because it covers such a broad spectrum of areas, one quickly finds that gains in one area start to enhance gains in other areas. From personal experience, this truly is an extremely exciting journey and even becomes addictive, thereby all but guaranteeing further lifestyle changes. As soon as this spiral is started, the mind becomes a lot more open to the wealth of information on sustainability out there and this understanding then stimulates further action. In the end, you end up with a completely self-sustaining upwards spiral towards happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable living.

In closing, the change that is needed within the developed world today can basically be summarized as follows: hundreds of millions of people must be reconditioned away from a debilitating and self-destructive culture of consumerism and entitlement towards a healthy and fulfilling culture of contribution and personal responsibility. It is my sincere hope that the One in a Billion project can contribute to this change and help overcome the great challenges discussed above.

This really is a dream of mine which I have recently described in more detail under my Dream heading for anyone who might be interested. Please spend a minute or two to think about this philosophy and whether you might consider developing a similar dream of your own.


Trust me, Schalk’s blog is full of very interesting propositions.  Yet another sign that opinions are changing across this great interconnected world.

7 thoughts on “YOU are responsible

  1. Excellent stuff from Schalk as usual. He says that what we must do is “motivate people to take action by strongly emphasizing on the immediate personal benefits of making these lifestyle changes”

    So, then, maybe we can get the turkeys to vote for Christmas by convincing them we should all become vegetarians; and invite them to join us as we celebrate with nutloaf instead of meat. More on this on my blog in due course.


    1. Thanks Martin. Yes, I thought Schalk’s essay tied in nicely with some of my earlier posts about the complexity of change, which I’m sure you will recall. I woke this morning reflecting that lifestyle change is more likely to come about by educating us all about the special nature of change that global warming requires rather than by a continual drum beat of ‘doom and gloom’. As the mantra goes when it comes to dog training, ‘catch them doing things right’ and reward that, not the other way around. Think that’s just one more thing we can ‘learn from dogs’! Paul


      1. Apologies to all your hundreds of readers who will no doubt be completely baffled by my mention of “turkeys not voting for Christmas”… This is an analogy running through the last two posts on my blog, which I am using to summarise a point made by Schalk regarding the obstacles to change: That the people with the power will not relinquish it voluntarily and, in the meantime, they have our politicians completely fixated on burning fossil fuels simply because “they are there”This may be a legitimate reason to climb mountains; but it is no way to manage a planet…!


  2. (I arrived here as a result of a google search for “Schalk Cloete”, a name with which I’m unfamiliar, mentioned by Martin in a comment on my blog. Thinks: I really must get out more…)

    … hundreds of millions of people must be reconditioned away from a debilitating and self-destructive culture of consumerism and entitlement towards a healthy and fulfilling culture of contribution and personal responsibility.

    Agreed… dare I mention the irony of the advert at the foot of your post? 😛


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