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Battle Globale

The thrill of competition will lead us to do some odd things. Like participate in an Ironman. Or watch the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Why do we do it? Just look at baboons. They explain everything you ever wanted to know about human behavior. Competition is Darwinism at its finest, a fight for limited resources. It’s rooted deep in our biology,  from the dog eat dog world from whence we came.  From the days when if you wanted a sirloin steak, you had rip it from the canines of a snarling saber tooth. You’d better have had a little fight in ya then.

So even though competition is really no longer necessary for our survival, and actually, is very much hindering our collective progress, it, like the Iron Man it possesses, endures.  The world is in dire need of cooperation, and that is not some kumbaya socialist theory, it is fact. The Copenhagen Summit proved it – in the face of irrefutable scientific evidence and a crisis that shows no favourtism, we failed, as a species, to agree on a global climate policy.

Now I’m as competitive as the next guy. Okay, so I’m slightly more competitive than the next guy. Fine, if I had the chance I would tie the next guy’s shoe laces together if it would put me ahead by a nose. Maybe I’m one rung down on the evolutionary ladder. Right there with earthworms.

But I know I’m not alone. So maybe we should stop fighting our competitive spirit, as ironic as that sounds.  Maybe each of us can contribute to overcoming our current predicament by using that killer instinct to our advantage. What predicament? I don’t know, choose one.

My uncle recently entered a weight loss competition. Eight guys, a hundred bucks a piece. He lost 20 pounds in six months and still didn’t come close to winning. Hard to compete with guys who turn to enemas and laxatives before weigh-ins. These guys had carried extra weight for years, some for decades,  trying diet after diet without success. But pit them against each other for half a year and suddenly you’ve got a room full of runway models. Not to say it was the healthiest route, but the motivation of competition is clear.

Turning to the issue of the day, that lovely earth of ours. If competition was born as a fight to use limited resources, could we reverse it? Turn it into a fight to limit resource use? Could we use the same mechanisms but reverse the intent? I call it Conservation Competition. Conservition for short.

It’s been done. Tufts University has a competition, er sorry, conservition, every year called “Do It in The Dark”  that pits students against each other in a head-to-head, no holds bard, energy-saving blood bath. The students go all-out, saving upwards of 50% of their normal energy usage. All for a pizza party. It’s not the reward, but the competition itself that motivates.

With the spread of energy monitoring technology, in fact, monitoring technology of all kinds,  this sort of thing is trackable, and therefore very possible on a larger scale. So I think the concept can spread, and really support the green movement. We’ve dabbled in it to date, but have lacked the monitoring capabilities to really pursue it. We have zero waste challenges, plant a tree challenges, ride to work challenges, don’t shower challenges, dirty hippy challenges….but a challenge is not a competition. A challenge lacks the head-t0-head, monitored, publicized, extrinsic reward value of a competition. A challenge is easy to give up.

I had an idea once for gambling website based on virtual animal fights.  Grizzly bear or shark, who’s it gonna be. An animation would simulate an epic battle between them – in the woods, underwater, or even on ice. It was a good idea. But aside from a competitive outlet, I can’t imagine it would do much for anyone. Sure you may win a couple bucks, and the Grizzly bear might feel the sweet taste of victory, but let’s be honest, the world would stay pretty much the same. But with conservation competition, your win means we all win. Even the sharks.

  1. CA
    May 21, 2010 at 1:43 am

    I’m in!

    I’ll put $5 on the glaciers.

    (liked the blog)

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