The One in a Billion project

OK, I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that we, the billion wealthiest world citizens, are creating serious global problems through our unsustainable consumption habits. We are killing our environment, ruining our economy and creating massive inequalities within our society. Our excessive consumption has also brought us a true epidemic of degenerative disease, crippling personal debt and a stubborn lack of life satisfaction even within our wonderfully affluent society.

Luckily there is some very good news as well: we can fix each and every one of these problems while simultaneously gaining massive personal benefits. Indeed, the One in a Billion project is all about saving the world by building for yourself a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life the true definition of a win-win situation.

Sound good? Take some time to browse through the resources available on this blog:

  • Start here:contents page of posts describing the action plan for sustainable living
  • The collection of lifestyle calculators linked on the top left
  • A wide range of information about the current state of our world (scroll down)

For those who are interested in understanding our sustainability crisis, how we got here and how we can get ourselves out, please take a look at the page series listed below:

  • summary of our global problems and the most viable solutions to these problems
  • A detailed look at why our current unsustainable systems are guaranteed to collapse
  • Three fundamental laws that will shape the future of our global civilization
  • Some interesting views on economics from a One in a Billion perspective
  • An example to illustrate the vital roles that individuals play in an exchange economy
  • My dream for this project and how this dream might be realized

Finally, I do not claim any copyright on any of the written material on this blog. More about this (lack of) copyright policy can be read here.

So, happy reading and I really hope that you get some value from this blog.

58 thoughts on “The One in a Billion project”

    1. Hi Paul, I have added an “About” page listing some details about this project and myself. Hope this helps.

      I’ve been over to “Learning from Dogs” and I like your philosophy. You also seem like an experienced blogger, so if you have any advice for a newbie like me, it would be much appreciated 🙂

    2. Hi! My name is Sofie and I study social innovation management with a focus on consumerism. Is there any way that I could contact you with some questions?

  1. Wow Schalk, high and lofty aims but seems like a good idea. I am not experienced in the blogosphere at all, but will check this out. GOOD LUCK!!!!

    1. Jisja, ek neem aan dis nou my pa se ou vriend Danie? Lekker om van jou te hoor 🙂

      Moet asseblief nie huiwer om enige voorstelle uit jou wye ervaring te maak wat hiedie werk kan verbeter nie.

  2. Dear Schalk, Well a big ‘thank you’ for subscribing to Learning from Dogs. Hope you find it worth following over the longer term. Not sure I have any advice with regard to ‘blogging’ than be yourself, be honest and network with other like-minded writers across the world. Best of luck, Paul

    1. Well, the good news is that you are certainly not alone 🙂 Virtually the entire developed world is right there with you. If the whole world consumed like Americans, for example, we would need four or five planets to sustain us…

      However, it has been proven beyond any doubt that over-consumption only drives people to obesity, degenerative disease, debt and bankruptcy all while bringing them no happiness whatsoever.

      On the other hand, sustainable living is synonymous with happy, healthy and wealthy living. Give it a try – you might just be pleasantly surprised 🙂

      1. ‘However, it has been proven beyond any doubt that over-consumption only drives people to obesity, degenerative disease, debt and bankruptcy all while bringing them no happiness whatsoever. ‘ – Yaiks! That’s scary :c Well, I don’t over-consume on food so that’s a good thing maybe. But I do know I’m a sucker for splurging on unnecessary material things – ah poor me. But yet again, we can always redeem ourselves tomorrow 🙂 nice post, by the way.

      2. Hehe… Yeah, it is a bit scary, but it is true.

        But perhaps I could ask you a quick question? You see, as an engineer/nerd type, I like statistics and regularly see graphs of bad things going up and good things going down. Such graphs make my rational brain very worried and get me to take action.

        You strike me as a much more spontaneous/instinctive person though, and I guess that such boring graphs would not really impress you. I was therefore wondering if you could help me out by telling me what might motivate you to take a few minutes to calculate things like your environmental footprint (link on the top right of this blog) and take action to reduce it.

        I would really appreciate your feedback since it is important that the stuff I write on this blog appeals to as many people as possible. Thanks 🙂

  3. Hi Schalk! Sorry for the late reply. Regarding your assumption that graphs might bore me, on the contrary, I actually find graphs very useful. I’m a graduate of Business Economics so I’m used to seeing summarized data in visual form, fascinated even 🙂 They are concise thus, easier to understand.

    But graphs with accompanying photos & solid references are more striking to me. The graph tells a story, photos back up that story, references solidify that story & reinforces a Call to Action from viewers/readers 🙂

    A follow-through system is also a good motivation. If there’s a platform for monitoring say, ‘Happiness’, that would be great! Hey, why not make a social networking site for environment preservation advocates? Haha What am I thinking?

    There, I hope it helps! 😀

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and sorry for misreading your liking for graphs 😉 I’ll take this into consideration for future posts.

    1. Ah, thank you so much for the nomination and the kind words 🙂 I’m so glad that you find the information on this blog to be useful.

      I got nominated for another award with similar rules some time ago, but could not yet claim it because I have only been blogging for about 2 months and don’t know 15 blogs I would like to nominate yet. I see that you also skipped a little bit on that step 😉 Perhaps we who are new to the blogosphere can be excused for claiming the award with only 5 or so nominations without being arrested by the blog-police…

  4. It may not be healthy to receive more than one award, so perhaps you should return it. 😦

    Or perhaps just pass it on to some poor soul who doesn’t have many followers. (I think that is why I got the award.)

    WOW….blogging for 2 months! I will be happy to make it for 1. And then I will probably just begin recycling.

    1. Hehe… Nah, people give blog rewards to blogs they enjoy reading. I’m sure you earned your award fair and square 🙂

  5. But to change to any goal, don’t we collectively have to move forward changing not one problem but all of them at once? It isn’t just that we need to live purposefully or organically…there is so much more to agree on. I’ve been overwhelmed just with the food/health issue.

    1. Sure, the problems facing our global civilization are huge and multifaceted, but the One in a Billion project will address all of them over the coming months. Health is just the first of 10 specialized categories I will work through.

      And even though the problems can be daunting, the individual lifestyle choices to address them are not complicated. If people simply eat according to the correct vegetable-based food pyramid and get enough motion during every day, the benefits to society in all crisis areas will be great. This is addressed shortly here.

      I have also written a longer set of pages summarizing the many problems facing our world today, the possible solutions on the table and why I think that individual “one in a billion” action is the only viable way forward. It is a little more heavy and will not fall in everyone’s interests, but I find it very interesting at least 😉

  6. Any successful attempt at reversing and correcting the perilous journey humanity is on has to focus on the nature of change, how humans change, why the change required in this case is psychologically complex, and how the reward feedback process has to work. In my opinion these are the core issues to be tackled.

    1. Thanks for that sudden piece of insight, Paul. Perhaps I could expand a little on how the One in a Billion project currently views the points you raised and then you can give me your opinion on these views so that I can further improve them.

      Change is driven by a complex set of internal and external triggers that influence our consciousness every second of every day. If these triggers collectively indicate to a person (based on his/her unique subjective interpretations and subconscious filters) that some alternative is more attractive and/or that the current reality is unacceptable, motivation for change is granted. The exact nature of the change that this project requests is a change in day-to-day lifestyle choices which stems from shaping a person’s interpretation and filtering of the various internal and external triggers to accurately represent the reality that a lifestyle aimed at sustainable happiness is infinitely more attractive than one focused on consumerism.

      This project tries to motivate people to take action by strongly emphasizing on the immediate personal benefits of making these lifestyle changes, the ease with which these changes can be made (and made permanent), the short and long term hazards of not making these changes and the moral obligation we have to the poor and to future generations to make these changes.

      The change is psychologically complex because the entire environment we live in today just begs us to consume at ever increasing rates. This is the reason why this project repeatedly emphasizes on the construction of micro-environments to protect against this toxic macro-environment and make the correct actions natural and automatic. On a higher level, change is psychologically complex because we now have to abandon a system that has raised our standard of living tremendously while we still had abundant cheap fossil fuels and a limitless planet. Our most powerful weapon has turned into our greatest threat and it should come as no surprise that we seem totally unable to handle that.

      The reward-feedback process in the One in a Billion initiative is actually quite interesting. As stated before, a lot of emphasis is placed on the immediate rewards of making certain lifestyle choices, but the thing that makes it really interesting is the holistic and complementary nature of this plan. Because it covers such a broad spectrum of areas, one quickly finds that gains in one area start to enhance gains in other areas. From personal experience, this truly is an extremely exciting journey and even becomes addictive, thereby all but guaranteeing further lifestyle changes. As soon as this spiral is started, the mind becomes a lot more open to the wealth of information on sustainability out there and this understanding then stimulates further action. In the end, you end up with a completely self sustaining upwards spiral towards happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable living.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      1. This is a late response to this insightful
        10/08/2012 AT 10:26

        I’ve thought a lot about this arena of “change” as well.

        Because the environment has “allowed it”, we have been able to pursue “our wants” individually; the end result of which appear to be leading to a “dead planet”.

        Obviously, we need to begin demonstrating, in our wants and desires, something in accord with the reality that “we are one”.

        Although the effective ending of “Myths to Live By” (Apologies to Joseph Campbell) has left us “adrift” in our self-centered world(s), we can, should, and must evolve “Visions to Live By”, and creatively project a future in which our efforts go to enhance Life, instead of our artificially separated ego-natures.

        The power of “creative imagining” is huge, and as the structures we have built in the centuries of self-deception fail, our attention must turn to becoming caretakers of Life.

        This sounds a bit “hokey”, perhaps: but it is true.

        “This person’s” paradigm shift came a few years back, when the realization of “species extinction ” saddened me, and my focus has changed.


        A possible vision for “the future”, responding to “the now”.

        David Newell

  7. Schalk, what a fascinating reply from you. So much so that I would love you to take your reply above and present it as a guest post on LfD. Please? Paul

    1. Sure Paul, I would be glad to do that 🙂

      But I have never written a guest post before. How is the procedure for doing this?

  8. Just send me an email with an attached document, such as a word doc, introducing the theme as expressed in your reply to my comment above, plus any other relevant thoughts and I can do the rest.

  9. Hi Schalk. My wife (Wen Scott) just received an award from you and I was interested in finding out what it was all about. I’m impressed to say the very least. I myself am an investigative journalist and a reporter for our local newspaper circulation 8,500. I can’t say they would be interested but I am in having your comment for Paul Hanover (above) added to my blog. You and your in depth humanity enriches and instills my faith in our society. My blogs usually depict the horrors being created to our southern neighbor. I won’t go into that as this is not the area to express my opinions.

    In any event, if you would give me your permission to copy and paste your response to Paul I would be deeply appreciative. Thank you so much. And, I now have this site as a regular ‘Tab’. Cheers, Warren

    1. Hi Warren, please feel free to copy, edit and redistribute any of the material on this site in whichever form you might see fit. My (lack of) copyright policy is described here.

  10. Lets make our lives and finances better in the coming years by taking resposibility for both.

    1. Let’s do just that. Our spending choices have a very big influence on our environment, our economy and our society. I wish more people could acknowledge and act on this great responsibility.

    1. Thanks pendantry, I completely agree with you and Paul about me not being sufficiently active on the networking front. However, my longer term plan is to first build up the complete action plan for sustainable living on this blog and only then begin actively spreading the word through networking, video presentations etc.

      In the meantime, I have a PhD thesis to finish by the end of April and a few interesting carbon capture research projects to keep me busy after that. My clear mission is therefore to stick to one thing at a time – something I find pretty challenging in itself.

  11. Great article at The Energy Collective on the rapid deterioration of renewable economics as penetration increases. I made a similar argument in a recent posting at my Black Swan Blog ( The other thing that is extremely problematic if we were ever to become seriously reliant on wind is the length of calm periods. The implication is that we might well have to store several days worth of total electricity supply in that scenario. What does the “hundred year calm” look like? Hydrogen, despite its many complications and disadvantages, might be the only truly long term high volume storage mechanism available. But like you said, maybe we hope for some magical innovation to save us.

    How did the Thesis defence go?

    1. Hi Davis, sorry for taking so long to reply. I have been away from this blog for a long time due to excessive responsibilities at work, but I’m back now.

      Your blog has some very interesting content. Why don’t you publish some of the articles on The Energy Collective? I think your content can spur some very interesting discussions.

      The PhD defence will take place in March. The thesis has been submitted in October last year, but, since my supervisors are also my colleagues at the research firm where I am now back to work, there has been little incentive to prioritize all the admin related to the defence. Things have therefore progressed rather slowly.

  12. Hi Schalk,

    Thanks for the information on your site. I am quite interrested in the costs of introducing more renewable and intermittent resources to the grid. Your analysis of the German position is much appreciated.

    Would like to have a short chat at e-mail level if possible.


  13. Please check the content at http://WWW.EarthThrive.Net, which elucidates a method of effecting “Direct Air Capture” of CO2, utilizing ocean water and the many billion tonnes of alkaline deposits available in the “basin and range” province East of the Sierra Nevada

    I would be delighted to defend the proposition against any objections which might arise.
    (Either here in open context, or by E Mail at “David@EarthThrive.Net”…)

    AFAIK, this is the only way to get to keep a “survivable” planet.

    Thank you.


  14. I am taken aback by how well you present data and analysis.
    Thank You for some very much needed clarity.

    I wanted to ask you if you would add some layering to your storage analysis and read my comments about storage on the following link.
    (at bottom)
    In the states banks get 0.1% access to capitol.
    What if storage (also PV and wind, all renewables, but off subject…)
    could get cheap capitol.

    Can the graphs of different storage technologies be done with 1% and 3% capitol interest?

    it would be interesting to see how that effect more efficient but more costly storage and also depth of discharge-cycle life and round trip efficiency impacts at the different discount rates.

    This will show how we can have a 10% C02 drop just from storage I predict IFF cheap capitol is presented to renewables as the fossil and nuclear industries recieve (forgetting all the other types of subsidization they get)

    Also changing efficiency % to simulate future breakthroughs and incremental improvements.

    Also your assumption about utilization is without adding the montization of PF correction and frequency regulation have . These are only available for the most part by batteries and thermal storage that allows orders of magnitude faster ramp rates at power plants.
    These short term and shallow cycling events happen every 8.66ms (60hz) and 10ms (50hz) in real time. Although shallow cycling the KWH is significant because of the frequency of the cycling at AC line rates.
    RMS IR drops will add heat to the batteries and will be additive with bulk storage cycling. But not always, sometimes the bulk storage currents and the frequency regulation currents cancel, but this will probably be less than 1/3 of the time.
    So sometimes it will help cycle life and sometimes hurt cycle lifes, unless smart enough to control when IR losses are additive. temp and loss measurement can turn this into a positive increase in cycle life I claim.
    These added revenue need to be layered on as an average, mean, std dev1,2…

    Since reducing wastage in T&D, and at thermal plants reduces C02 emissions we can subtract 5 to 10% C02 emissions without any drop in consumed power.

    This cannot happen in the states because wastage is monetized and prioritized.
    i claim the only way to fix this is to change the regulatory framework to allow the utilities to charge the same amount to customers but all the profits need to be only tied to end use consumption. Above 100% consumption is 20% to 70% wastage and unavoidable losses (Carnot etc…) But some are avoidable, probably 50% can be eliminated.

    If a utility cannot profit from wastage, then they will invest in installing efficiency measures that would reduce C02, pollution totals and significantly improve ground air quality in cities with a significant inversion problem.
    They can pass this saving on to the shareholders as added profits IFF they are proactive. If they are not then a carrot and stick approach is probably needed for the laggards. After 2x the reasonable time to install established and needed efficiency measures the wastage cap will need to be reduced slowly. if a utility waits to long then they will loose revenue because their excess losses cannot be pushed out the the end user anymore.
    And the shareholders will find new utility leaders that will.

    If my napkin analysis mostly holds true, then we can reduce C02 with storage, pumped hydro, batteries, and thermal storage at heat generated power plants.

    Feel free to tweak my guesstimates to #’s you have considered to be realistic.

    And keep up the great work, with your input and source type change sensitivity analysis.

    1. Thanks for the interesting comment. About the numbers, you can download all the Excel sheets I use in my analyses here. Please feel free to use these sheets for your own sensitivity analyses.

      About cheap financing, as an advocate of a technology-neutral approach to tackling the 21st century sustainability crisis, I’m against distorting the price of capital for favoring certain technologies over others. Capital price distortions that are not supported by fundamentals almost always end badly.

      About additional benefits of storage, I think that these applications are fairly low volume in nature. The real volume lies with arbitrage and seasonal storage and this is where storage needs to arrive if it is to make a significant contribution to the energy and climate challenge we face. However, the question of benefit stacking is an interesting one to think about. The IEA did an interesting analysis in their latest Energy Technology Perspectives report to show that storage costs are still far too high for any individual application (e.g. frequency response, peak load, transmission deferral etc.), but also makes a general statement that benefit stacking could improve this situation. It would be interesting to think about the degree to which the same kWh of stored energy could fulfill several grid services at once. Unfortunately I don’t have the data or the experience to make useful comments on this.

      If you want to discuss more about this, please comment on my articles on linked in the page where the Excel sheets can be downloaded.

      1. Schalk,
        I have begun following your posts and reading your articles, and I would very much like for you to call me at your soonest convenience at 913-281-8124 regarding a possible speaking engagement.
        I look forward to discussing this with you.
        Mike Linderer
        Communications Director
        International Brotherhood of Boilermakers

  15. “dieta jadłospis sent me an E mail:

    “Hello, i believe that i noticed you visited
    my site thus i came to return the choose?.I am trying to to find issues to
    enhance my website!I guess its good enough to make use of some of your

    this page came up as the “response” direction.

    My answer is:

    Surely. However, I’ve just noticed that my website is corrupted at page 13. i am in discussions for repair as we “speak.” Sorry for the tardy response.

    David Newell

    “The bad news is that we, the billion wealthiest world citizens, are creating serious global problems..”

    This misses the point. The issue of “wealth” is not the issue. The issue is that our “egoic ME mind” is mistakenly seen as “who we are” instead of the “underlying ” , and thus we make individual decisions based on “What the ME wants”, which leads to global catastrophe. (Now commencing.)

    Get rid of the “richest billion”, and in short order, the next group steps up, replicating the same condition.

    It is our MODE OF THINKING that will change, or disappear, perhaps with society, civilization, and the biosphere as we have known it.

  17. Ooops:
    delete “who we are” instead of the “underlying ” , and thus we make ”
    and insert
    “who we are” instead of the “underlying SILENCE” , and thus we make “.

    I bracketed SILENCE with “carets”, which apparently eliminates the words in the carets.

    my bad.


  18. My friend Mez posted a link, ( the IEA review) that brought my attention to your work. In return, I’d like to return the favor by drawing your attention to his. Connection forming seems to be a a side effect of my life, and I hope to enrich the progress of mankind in this instance more than I generally get to 🙂
    Antonio Knoy

      1. Thanks, I have had some brief email exchange with Ramez Naam before on the topic of modern renewables and catch up with his work from time to time (really like his video presentations). His technology optimism gives a very good perspective to moderate my own views which are less optimistic about technology, especially when it comes to energy (our ability to replace the thing which has enabled essentially all technological progress over the past two centuries: fossil fuels).

  19. My apologies in my wrong assignment of Mr. Surabaya as the one who “missed the point”.

    About the only thing I can see as “positive” on this planet is the increasing number of first-world thinkers who can clearly see that we are heading further and further into a box canyon.

    Props to Mr. Knoy who values his life work as “forming connections”.

    In 70 years, what “me” is “proudest of” is the work at http://www.EarthThrive.Net, and in truth, “the work” shown there, “me” can’t claim as “me’s” work product.

    Right or wrong (obviously i think it is “right”) it comes from “a new and larger place” which we all share.

    I am of the opinion that this web site(1 in a Billion) , Rameznaam.Com, and many other works come from that “one thing” we all share.

    Talking about it just sounds flaky, so I’ll shut up.

  20. Well, your blog seemingly aims to every aspects of life, right? But I like “Health” section. It is really useful. I wonder why you don’t broaden more sections to help your audiences gain more knowledge?

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A DIY guide to saving our world while building a happy, healthy and wealthy life