The Jevons Paradox [^1]
Empires are self-centredly confident and have a tendency to claim they are eternal. Some do survive, in fact, several centuries. Their persistence is supported by a symbolic representation created by institutions established for this very purpose, or else simply by the manner of naming things.
The standard for colour hues recognised around the world, used predominantly in the industrial production of paint, is originally a German system established almost a hundred years ago by the Imperial Office for Delivery Terms (Reichs-Ausschuss für Lieferbedingungen). The enigmatic acronym RAL hides a reference to this imperial office. Despite the fact, that it only administered the Weimar Republic. Its name maintains a sentiment for the imperial ambitions of the former empire. Today, thanks to the strength of the German postwar economy, it has become a global standard.
Without the effective processing of fossil fuels, the exact same shades of colour could have not been extracted each time. Sovereignty is manifested in the capacity to seize and then divide the decomposed remainders of organic matter.
Oil and coal are no longer a shapeless material but a scale; a variety of choices. Every choice has its designation and is thus subjugated and controlled.
Capitalism, i.e., primarily a profit-accumulating empire, has long since encompassed the entire world, and through institutions created for its protection, the world is translated and symbolically interpreted so thoroughly we have no other language with which to speak about it.
And yet, in the manner of naming, in its nuances (such as the naming of colour scales), we can find a coded history of the industrial age – and its alternatives too.
Some forms of state capitalism, such as the former socialist bloc states of East Germany and Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), developed their own nomenclature and colour scales.
Central Europe is a designation that carries many meanings, but most of these arise from the current geopolitical arrangement and means something a little different to each party. It includes the states listed above and is today nothing more than a cultural signifier.
If we have to interpret the present situation, only through the symbolic representation of dominant nomenclature, we would say that we are living in the age of RAL.
Technological advances bringing greater effectivity in using certain natural resources, paradoxically increases the consumption of these resources due to a higher demand.
The Jevons Paradox is probably the greatest paradox of environmental economics. It can also be perceived as a two-word exegesis of industrial history. It probably cannot be circumvented or disproved in practice; we always arrive at a greater consumption.
The photographs used in the diagrams are found material; bought in an antique shop. They were taken by Ludvík Vojtěchovský, probably in the 1970s in the north-Bohemian brown coal basin, i.e. at a time when all the mentioned Central European colour samplers were in use. The image is multiplied through interpretation, exposed to various colour taxonomies, even though it is essentially still the same image.
Not even mental processes are innocent.
[^1]In economics, the Jevons paradox occurs when technological progress or government policy increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the rate of consumption of that resource rises due to increasing demand. The Jevons paradox is perhaps the most widely known paradox in environmental economics. However, governments and environmentalists generally assume that efficiency gains will lower resource consumption, ignoring the possibility of the paradox arising.