Thoughts on discussing sustainable lifestyle and high blog readership

How are those two things – sustainable lifestyle and high blog readership- connected, you might ask.  Read on.

There are many definitions of “sustainability”, and in fact it’s a much over-used and abused term.  I’m not going to go into a debate here on the various things it might mean – you’ll just have to make up your own mind what it means to you.  For me, possibly the key aspect of sustainability is inter-generational fairness.  That is, we should not do things today that will significantly reduce the options for future generations.  If they can’t keep on doing something that we do because of the impacts of what we have done, then what we do is not sustainable.  Seems pretty simple.

Equally relevant in terms of a blog on living sustainably in the Lockyer is the scope of the term “sustainable” with respect to this blog.  I suppose one could focus on living an individually sustainable lifestyle, or narrow it even further to using ones land sustainably.  However if we can agree that sustainability includes the notion of being able to continue doing the same activity into the future, then there are clearly relevant considerations from outside of ones lifestyle or local area that are going to impinge on the potential for ongoing sustainability (if that isn’t too much of a tautology).

Just to take a topical (and I hope, extreme) example:  if I keep noodling along with my greywater recycling, solar power, wicking pots, etc. but ignore the fact that the government is permitting coal seam gas extraction in my area (and therefore most likely under, if not on, my land), then sooner or later my little sustainable balloon existence is going to be rudely punctured by the impacts of CSG.

Why is this relevant to my level of blog readership (which at present I suspect to be limited to myself and occasionally my wife, and possibly, very occasionally, my daughter)?

Well, it has been pretty well demonstrated by a whole range of environmental / lifestyle bloggers that keeping it positive and largely cheerful is a key factor in building and keeping a readership. No doom and gloom.  No focussing on the realities of climate change, peak resource availability, etc. Too negative.

Three bloggers whom I enjoy reading on a daily basis are shining examples of this.  Gavin, at Greening of Gavin, is one who keeps it for the most part on an even and positive keel, though in the past he did let loose some monumental sprays at various unsustainable idiocies of government or others.  But I’ve seen him say in comment discussions on his blog that he recognises that focusing on the negative (as in dumb government policies, institutional irresponsibility or poor lifestyle choices of segments of the population) is likely to drive readers away.

Similarly, Frugal Queen (Froogs to her followers) focuses almost completely on providing positive lifestyle examples in terms of shopping (or not shopping), heating, cooking, holidaying, and frugal approaches to just plain fun.  Milkwood Farm is another example of focusing entirely on the positive aspects of sustainable living / lifestyles.  If you read those last two you would have no idea that climate change, peak oil, unrepayable national debt, or massive environmental impacts from our western standard of living were happening.

I do have to recognise, however, that Froogs probably isn’t totally sweetness and light.  She has a delightful “Disclaimer” on her home page that warns:

This is a blog and I have strong straight forward opinions. If you don’t like what you read then you are free to not do so. Comments are left at your own risk.

Go girl!  I think I’ll put something like that here, if I ever feel that I have enough readers that I can take the risk of alienating even one of them.

All three of these blogs have readerships to die for, with daily hits in the thousands and more.  I think I saw just the other day that Milkwood had more than 24,000 Facebook “likes”, though I can’t seem to find it now, so maybe it was another blog.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not criticising these bloggers for their focus on the positive.  They write very interesting and useful blogs on many different topics – not only that, they are enjoyable to read – and make a very important and large-scale contribution to supporting those who are trying to, or thinking about, living sustainably.

But, and its a bloody big “BUT”, the reality is that there are a lot of government policies that are just plain antithetical to any hope of sustainability.  In addition, there are a lot of aspects of our system of government that are misguided, bad, or simply broken, and these significantly reduce all our chances of collectively living sustainable lifestyles.  And the average western lifestyle is going to destroy the chances of others in the world, or in the future, from having even a reasonable standard of living.  These and other factors that are taking us on the road to economic, social and environmental disaster have to be called for what they are, otherwise my (and your) individual attempts at living our lives sustainably count for nothing in the grand scheme of things – though they do make a significant contribution to keeping me from becoming hopelessly depressed about the state of the world.

So, expect to see some negative stuff here occasionally, from time to time.  If you don’t want to hear that climate change is really happening, or that some governments are deliberately white-anting international attempts at doing something to counteract it, then you might want to find another blog to read.

By the way, the other major factor in generating high readership levels is having a frequent and constant flow of new posts.  Froogs posts on average every day, Gavin is not far behind, and Milkwood Farm seem to be making a strong effort lately to post at least once every day.  On that basis I probably won’t ever have their numbers of readers.

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