True words about living habits

In Hbl of 12.06. Fredrik Sonck published a VERY important ledarkrönika titled ”Klimatdebatten måste vara obekväm”. In it he pointed to a recent avhandling which was showing a ”robust samband” between economical growth and an increase in climate-harming exhaust gases under ALL types of political conditions.

This should not be such a surprise (the more money one gets to hand the more one is inclined to spend some of it for a few additional comforts – which in turn will easily demand some additional burning of fuels, some addition of meat to the diet, some new objects the production of which will result in some pollution …). Indeed one could (and quite some people do) be in doubt what is more dangerous for the globe, the increase in the number of people who want to survive or the widely growing demands for a better standard of living.

Fredrik Sonck points in this context to some quite usual phenomena of the Finnish summer (with vattenskotrarna as an extreme example of unnecessary consumption of fuel), some of which are certainly familiar also to me: the family which has inherited some cottage somewhere deep in the Finnish countryside and drives there in the weekend over a distance of a few hundred kilometres, cooks coffee, cuts the lawn, heats the sauna, and after these activities drives the same few hundred kilometres back to town is after all no remarkable exception … . And to fly at least once per year south for some holiday in the sun is not anything unusual either.

And what to do then? Some may be tempted to try and produce some political ammunition from these matters: in the last issue of Ny Tid there was a speech by Jonas Sjöstedt (ordförande for Sweden’s Vänsterpartiet) where he says that ”[d]e rikaste har den mest ohållbara livsstilen för klimatet” – which may be true, but does not change anything about the disastrous habits of the very many … . And once people have got used to their habits, it will ESPECIALLY IN A DEMOCRACY be EXTREMELY difficult to get them to give them up. On top of which there are the governments who are permanently (and justly) worrying from where to get the necessary income (in the form of taxes) from which to pay for the services which the governments are under legal obligation to provide (from which a permanent and insatiable wish for more growth).

In this situation, I think that quite a number of different steps have to be taken: (a) we need more intelligent politicians – which means that any candidate for high political office has to be put through a series of tests whether s/he has the necessary intelligence (and motivation) for the position s/he aims for -, so that (b) s/he does not fall for the neo-liberal brainwash which is being spread by the media (who try to please their superiors and advertisers, who DO like neo-liberalism), but instead (c) dares to become ACTIVE (cf Ha-Joon Chang’s ”Thing 12”) about establishing some industries which might help the climate: this would concern muscle-powered vehicles for the daily travels (e.g. to and from the job), airships (for quite a number of problems including, e.g., regional air traffic), promotion of renewable energy sources, recycling, etc.. This would of course also demand (d) less lazy (and ALSO more intelligent) judges in our courts, who would go to the trouble of considering what ADEQUATE answers to up-coming problems would look like (instead of blindly giving priority to the interests of private property) and also formulating according demands to the legislators. As a supplement to these demands there should also be installed a system for the invitation, collection and expert consideration of suggestions from the public, because free enterprise has the unwelcome tendency to come up only with suggestions which tend to disregard anybody who is unable to pay and also to blackpaint any competing – even though possibly better – suggestions (as they would not add to the profits of the suggesting party). And after the combination of suggestions from the public and economically active politicians has resulted in the availability of more environmental-friendly ways to take care of established habits, the next step would be to make the less environment-friendly ways less and less attractive (e.g. by increasing taxes on fuels, on long-distance air travel, on cars – perhaps with exceptions for specific groups, as e.g. families with small children or similar). Altogether, the problem would demand VERY MUCH THOUGHT, long-run, consequent activity, quite a number of legal restrictions (e.g. on advertising) , and certainly also the invention and promotion of more environment-friendly ways of spending one’s time.

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