Less flights, not less food, make 70’s more environmental
I found a recent article that claims eating less overall, and more greens and less meat, to reflect the diet of the 1970’s, would help the planet. Whilst I don’t doubt there’s some truth here, I do think conjoining the very separate issues of obesity and the collapse of eco-systems is unhelpful in a world full of image problems. But perhaps the idea that a 1970’s lifestyle is better for the planet might hold some weight.
After all, car ownership was lower, if just as economically stratified. Families were more likely to have just one car. MPV’s and SUV’s weren’t all the rage either. And foreign holidays were either annual things, or not at all, except for the stupidly rich. And people had one telly, no dishwasher and a whole lot fewer power sucking gadgets.
Sure, this relied on a certain amount of inequity, with the richest already consuming as much or more than today’s average UK householder, but the majority were doing much better. And for all the faults of the rail system at the time, at least it was a bit more affordable.
Being vegan might save enough CO2 to allow you to drive a 4×4 but it doesn’t save you enough to take a flight across the Atlantic. And car ownership wasn’t as high, either, especially not second cars for households. But most noteworthy of all, is that most houses survived with far fewer wall sockets.
How many of the wall sockets in your house have more than 1 thing plugged into them via extensions? Many houses were wired on the basis that a bedroom needed 4 sockets tops, and yet my bedroom has 9 things plugged in right now. I’m sure I’m not the worst culprit, either. Even if I cut it down to a laptop and bed side lamp, I’d be using 1 more than many people would have been using 40 years ago.
Its very easy to confuse reducing CO2 usage with primitivism. Yes, a primitivist lifestyle will almost certainly impact the environment less than the “average” modern person’s life does. But it is unrealistic and possibly unnecessarily harsh, though one should be rather careful in this regard.
If one aims for a 2 ton carbon lifestyle, taking life 40 years ago could be an excellent first step. One might even find oneself able to put more money aside or take time out to volunteer in the community, though I do find it worrying some have returned to the search for the 4-working-day-week Mecca as part of reducing carbon emissions.
In practice, a low carbon economy must be one in which the work we undertake is actually meaningful, and yes, it will probably require 40 hour weeks, after we factor in the ways we must simplify processes. It means evaluating the things we buy and deciding which ones we could better do with out, owning and consuming less, rather than not at all. After all, 25% of China’s emissions belong to the West and not China once final destinations of goods are taken into account. Reversing the excesses of development, yes, but definitely not some kind of return to the wild.
So it ultimately comes down to a phrase that I have heard often amongst Christians and almost never amongst non-Christian Activists: We must live simply, that others might simply less.