R is for rationing – a dirty word that everyone is avoiding, but which looms nonetheless as the unspoken sub-text of all public discourse on the current scarcity of resources – food, fossil fuels and water. It’s also referred to as demand management, if you like institutional gobbledygook.
Growing up in Hong Kong, I remember water rationing. The water was trucked over from China and the British army distributed it to households once a week. When resources are rationed, behaviour modification follows suit. Seen in that light, it might not be such a bad thing.
This month’s issue of La Decroissance has an interesting commentary on the subject: “What if rationing, fortuitously, instead of being a constraint which is imposed or even voluntarily agreed upon, became the opportunity to invent another type of society which is more respectful of nature and humans?” It points out that rationing already exists in a number of countries: water in Algeria and Jordan, electricity in Brazil, South Africa and Niger where big cities are plunged into darkness 12 hours a day and Cuba, where many essentials like rice, bread and soap are rationed.
Denis Baupin, deputy mayor of Paris and a member of the Green Party, has called for the creation of a kind of rationing card for fruit and vegetables which will allow low-income households to buy 40 euros worth of organic fruit and vegetables per month.
Yves Cochet, another Green deputy in Paris, said in a recent interview with Le Monde: “Politicians are afraid to address the subject of economizing energy, of saying ‘We have to tighten our belts’.” Energy descent is not articulated as a goal in the European Union objectives for climate change. Right now, the objectives are: by 2020, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, renewable energies to account for 20 pct of production, and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency.