Being brought up in the economics tradition, I view the world as split into the macro (top down) and micro (bottom up). This blog is principally concerned with the macro, but I think if you engage in the climate change and resource depletion debate then you need to take a long hard look at your own personal micro.
If a caricature of western capitalism could be construed as “he (or she) who dies with the most consumer durables wins” then a caricature of the sustainability movement could be “he (or she) who dies wearing the most uncomfortable hair shirt wins”. But I believe all such absolutes are counterproductive, even the sustainable ones. The object is not to compare oneself with an unobtainable ideal, but rather to move oneself in the right direction.
Nonetheless, you can’t set off in the right direction unless you know where you are starting from. In this connection, the Personal Energy Estimator put together by Christian Gebbe is a huge help. Gebbe’s Estimator is based on the work done by David MacKay, currently the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and author of Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.
Within the Estimator, you need to fill in a series of boxes based on your current consumption such as this one for transportation here (click for larger image):
As a result, you eventually generate a Personal Energy Consumption Estimate like this (with the unit of measurement being kilowatt hours per day):
Gebbe’s Personal Energy Estimator is far from perfect but will give you a good idea of where the low-hanging energy saving fruit is to be found.