Stockholm, exams, and the efficiency paradox

It’s been a while since I last wrote. I went to Stockholm last week with about 100 other exchange students from Jyvaskyla (needless to say how crazy that was!) and I’ve got quite a bit of studying to do with exams approaching. (Hence, the slowdown)

Just thought I’d do a quick one to let you know I’m alive etc.

I wanted to write about this before I left, and lo and behold, the topic was covered in the news from a CIBC World Markets report when I got back. (Damn, I’m always missing the boat on these things)
About 2 weeks ago, my teacher was talking about the efficiency paradox and it really got me thinking. Essentially, the more we push for efficiency, the gains are lost from increased consumption. As someone who likes to think of herself as somewhat “environmentally conscious” this was a bit of an eye opener.(Common sense, but still an eye opener). Reflecting on my own personal consumption patterns, it’s true – I love to shop – almost everything I own here is new. (new furniture, new dishes, new clothes, new boots, new jacket, etc. etc. etc . (My little trip to Sweden didn’t help this either….I love clothes.)

The solution to this though isn’t to forgo the push for efficiency, like Forbes suggests:

All smart politicians back “more efficiency” because that seems to let them embrace lower energy prices and less consumption as well. But to reduce energy consumption, we should probably mandate less efficiency, not more. Efficiency rises. Energy consumption rises, too. This is the great paradox of the efficiency. Read it and weep.

The solution is in sufficiency.  What do we really need? How do we get enough out of life without just consuming more and more and more?

That’s the actual goal, not suppressing the gains from efficiency (backwards thought no?). And I guess, I for one…. should start working on that….

Thinking of more, but wow, I’ve got an exam tomorrow that I really need to start working on….


And Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to.  My grandma went on the ferry boat crossing the Baltic about 10-15 years ago and even then, at the age of 75 or so, she called it the “Party Boat”. My god, is it ever a party boat….



3 thoughts on “Stockholm, exams, and the efficiency paradox

  1. Steven Kivinen says:

    Hi Jane! Long time no talk. I like your website.

    Anyways, about the paradox, if the goal is to lower pollution (via lowering energy consumption) then the only way is to make energy consumption/production more costly. I totally agree with you that lowering efficiency is a ridiculous idea; not only would many people be against it just like they are with other energy consumption measures, but there are clear advantages to using other methods such as taxation.

    However, the majority of people do not wish to live like Buddha, otherwise they already would be. I think that the trick to reducing energy consumption is to tax gasoline even higher and to get rid of (where the government owns power companies, like here in B.C.) artificially low electricity prices.

  2. janeporter says:

    Hey Steve! Awesome to hear from you. It has been a long time…

    Anyways, totally agreed. People respond to price. Market mechanisms work well for giving people the incentive to do the “right” thing.

    Even business people want this to happen (well, sometimes;) “Feebates” – tax us on things that we do that you don’t want us to do (i.e. burning gasoline) and provide rebates on the things that we should do (buy efficient appliances, take the bus etc.)

    It’s a good system. And as for the tax on gasoline, i’m so there with you. We complain and complain about rising fuel prices – it’s been like that in europe for ages. They don’t complain – they just buy smaller cars and have better public transit.

  3. Jay Godse says:

    One big cause of gas consumption is our urban architectures. Our city centres are generally very unfriendly to young growing families. As a result, folks move to the suburbs where there is more space and housing is cheap. But they then have to take long commutes to work. If businesses and government offices could locate to the suburbs as well, then the commuting traffic could be kept local. Ottawa has the typical pattern…most government jobs are downtown or in Tunney’s Pasture and a lot of folks have to go at least 25 km each way to get in to work because they live in Kanata (west), Barrhaven (south), Orleans (east), or Gatineau (north).

    A nice emerging pattern is that government offices are starting to move to the suburbs. Also, in Ottawa we have a huge tech sector in the west end in Kanata and west Nepean. For example, for the last few years, I have had jobs where the commute was 8 km, 5 km, and 1 km. However, most people are not so blessed.

    Of course, the challenge is that once you bring good jobs to the suburbs, you also have to have low-paying service jobs, and to attract people to work there you need to build low-cost high-density housing to accommodate them. Rich suburbanites don’t like that…

    However, with proper zoning and getting a mix between work and housing, commutes can be reduced…reducing gas consumption.

    On the other hand, with the short commutes you can have up to an extra hour every day which can be used to…drive your kids around to friends and activities.


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