Is working less going to save the planet? It’s our only hope, says a brand new study by eco think tank Autonomy.
The Ecological Limits of Work, which compares rates of climate change to average office hours, revealed that a shorter working week would significantly contribute to a ‘worldwide reduction in unemployment and greenhouse gas emissions’. That means it’s better for both the overworked wage slave and our overheating planet. To quote Paul Lafargue, the ‘necessity to be lazy’ is growing more urgent by the day.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently insisted on ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ to combat the onset of extreme weather, worsening air pollution and natural disaster. Autonomy’s study offers a practical guide for politicians who are writing legislation on issues of labour.
The results of their research are that a 1% decrease in working hours could lead to a 0.8% decrease in green house gas emissions. Working is the culprit for much of Europe’s emissions: computing uses energy at data farms and commuting causes pollution, especially in areas where public transport is limited and workers travel by car or in jobs that require international business travel by plane. That’s not even touching on the strain put on public health services by conditions caused by overwork and the gig economies which have emerged in response to a culture obsessed with convenience.
The data shows that 1610 kg CO2 emissions per year per capita would keep Earth within the boundary of 2°C warming, in comparison to pre-industrial levels. As Digital Editor of the Idler I work 21 hours a week. That’s far too much, the report suggests. In the UK the target from Autonomy would be less than 10 hours of work a week.
No doubt we have a long way to go to reach these targets, but it is exciting to see Autonomy leading the resistance against our toxic culture of overwork.
Their conclusion is that we all need to do less: ‘Clearly, such a transformation of work cannot be brought about overnight. It is becoming equally clear, however, that driving the current mode of production forward is even more unrealistic if we are to avoid disaster.’
To read Autonomy’s full report click here. Write to us with your thoughts to email@example.com