Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Enviro Deluxe

Here on the Canadian west coast we have seen a dramatic, recent rise in conspicuous wealth. A luxury car from the 1970s seems quaint today. Any contemporary new car is superior in almost every respect. The days of growing up in a small house, almost identical to the one next door, and having a Dad who makes pretty much what all the other Dads in school make - these days are gone. A lot of money can be made, and this has to do with globalization, the accumulated sophistication of our economy and our relationship to cheap products made in places with low environmental and human welfare regulations.

As we get used to this wealth, we assume a kind of baseline lifestyle which is environmentally unsupportable. So our economic well being is both cause and context of our environmentalism. Next step is difficult, because no-one wants to be characterized as taking a step back. One transitional step might be to compete to belong to a new, compelling cachet - eco-chic. But ultimately we have to stare down our love of consumption, our love of luxury. Sometimes just stating this makes one feel out of step with the times. We are a consumer society, get used to it, etc. But there are incentives to stripping away consumerism, because a life of true consideration for others is a life of sanity. And sanity, and the wish to avoid its opposite, may be the deepest reptilian dimension of all.

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