Hyperconsumerist rich Anglo/Euro-Western industrialized culture is by and large not taking its medicine, in terms of heeding Mother Earth’s ample and generous warnings.
To start, let’s focus in on the category of transportation. That is one of the several main factors in our outsized footprint (others include food/agriculture, home energy use, and purchases of consumer goods).
In the category of gasoline prices and transportation in general, here are some examples of what “not taking our medicine” looks like:
• blaming the president for “high” gas prices
• whining to our red-meat governors to do something about gas prices (such as remove the gasoline tax etc.)
• whining, in general — we Americans should not have to put up with this! (Or as one past president put it, “Our American way of life is not negotiable” )
• the media putting out all sorts of articles promoting irresponsible, mindless, unnecessary travel (cruise ships, flights, etc.)
• persisting with our gas-hogging manicured landscaping
• being all eager to “get back to normal life” as if the pandemic were just some random anomalous blip
Here are some examples of what taking our medicine might look like:
• our soi-disant “climate leader” president could stop his constant jetting around the country and the planet, and instead take the lead in insisting on having meetings by Zoom
• local governments strongly incentivizing public transportation, cycling, walking, ride-sharing
• local leaders (including government, business, and popular opinion leaders) encouraging people who are able to do so, to do errands on foot or bicycle whenever possible, maybe using “health and fitness” as an additional hook
• local governments putting moratoriums on car-dependent sprawl development; moratoriums on any more new roads
• local governments and local businesses working together to popularize delivery services as an alternative to everyone hopping in their cars to shop
• media running articles about simple ways for families to enjoy leisure time close to home
• block captains and other neighborhood leaders organizing music jams, crafting bees, Repair Cafés, coffee chats in the park …
• moving closer to family, if we have been habitually traveling thousands of miles a year to see them
• all of us really looking at how many hours we spend getting from point A to point B day in and day out: adding it up; noticing the toll it is taking; deciding to make big changes in our lives to reclaim our time and energy
• reducing the footprint of our landscaping by using our lawns, balconies, and public spaces to grow food for humans, and native plants for pollinators and other wildlife
• recognizing that the pandemic forced us to make some changes in our daily habits that ended up being good for people and the planet, and should be continued
This is just a brief list, and I’m not saying everyone must do everything on the list. I do think we (consumerist rich nations dominated by Anglo/colonialist-rooted norms) need to be whining a lot less and taking our medicine a lot more.
Finally, I will repeat something I’ve often said before — and that many other people, far knowledgeable than me, have said, with lots of science to back them up. The price of gasoline, especially in the USA, does not come even remotely close to reflecting its true cost — to people and all other species, and to ecosystems.
Oh, and finally-finally, it’s not the working-class and lower-income people who I am saying need to take their medicine and suck it up. It’s the affluent tier of the middle class, and above. Those of us who have options. We need to exercise leadership and show that it’s possible to be very happy and fulfilled, by living much more simply than we have been. We need to reset the norms.