Lifestyle choices without mentioning green or waste ;-)

May 28, 2007 at 5:48 am | Posted in America, Carbon emissions, Climate action, Climate change, CO2 emissions, Europe, G8, Lifestyles | 1 Comment

Mini Cabriolet Versace 2005

Hi Matt (my tuppence for your hat),

Many, many Americans—individuals, schools, and universities; small and global businesses and stakeholders from around the world; local mayors and state governments and leaders in Congress and the Senate—in the United States are doing an enormous amount of good work to tackle our climate challenge.

The Bush administration is quite simply hampering efforts and demoralising millions at home and around the world with its rejection of all prospects for a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany in June.

Dear Stephan (my response to your good question),

why, if three of the four developed nations (in a list of the top five global economies and India), have all converged at CO2 emissions of about 9.5 mt/capita as the requirement to achieve a modern consumerist lifestyle under current technologies, whereas the US seems to need twice that level of emissions to achieve the same level of life satisfaction?


There are significant differences in mindset and lifestyles transatlantically that explain why it is easier for some countries to accept CO2 emissions around 9.5mt/capita. As an American, and a European, and living on both sides of the Atlantic alternately, I do not believe there is any real difference in satisfaction quotients as a result of consumers’ lifestyle choices. Purchasing power does not necessarily buy happiness. Lasting happiness is derived not from products, but rather from satisfaction of inner values, recognition of strengths and choosing to be content. (Anyway, adoption of ‘current technologies’ varies from country to country; look at vehicles for starters: the U.S. auto industry remains a long way behind competitors.)

Consumers’ views can be changed by effective PR and marketing. For example, European commonplace advertising is much more ‘modern’ than most American equivalents. This observation applies to urban billboards as well as household consumable products (the cereal boxes we see everyday) where recyclable packaging, bright colours, attractive artwork (that works well in an extremely multilingual continent) are the norm. By contrast, typical American packaging tends to emphasise late 1950s-era traditions, with faded colours and old-fashioned fonts, which perhaps encourages people to think they are living in a golden age that has long since passed away.

So, bearing in mind your desire to maintain a top-class modern consumer lifestyle, and my view that desirable lifestyles needs to be marketed appropriately for any chance of them catching on, here are the differences that spring to mind:

Infrastructure ~ public versus private transport. Cities like London and Portland OR and countries that have strengthened public services are obviously at an advantage here. There are interesting comparisons of European transport modes, deregulation methods for competitive tendering in public transportation markets and resulting impact on passenger numbers and travel prices here.

Fuel efficiencies ~ Japanese and European vehicles are way, way ahead on that score in miles per gallon/litre and emissions standards. (By the way, the Japanese as a nation are very environmentally conscious and good news is that their prime minister takes over the presidency of the G8 in January 2008.)

Price of gasoline/diesel at the pumps ~ heavy taxation in Europe has boosted government coffers, while pushing fuel efficiency to a top priority for new car buyers and drivers in Europe in a way which is, as yet, unheard of in America, even in California.

Perceptions ~ Americans laugh at the ridiculous, tiny vehicles in Europe; Europeans feel sick when they see the huge, ugly vehicles Americans proudly drive around town (not just up a mountain).

Urban planning (or lack thereof) ~ European towns and cities were well-established centres of commerce hundreds of years before automobiles were invented ~ SUVs crawling down cobbled streets look ridiculous! SmartCars, VW Beetles/Bugs are amusing, but cool when you know the size of parking spaces 😉 Mini Coopers are decorated in vibrant style 🙂

Commute distances ~ are shorter in Europe than America.

Air-conditioning ~ Europeans live without it. Siestas in Mediterranean zones serve the purpose of avoiding the hottest part of the day, and enjoying cooler evenings.

Values ~ BIGGER IS BETTER versus small is beautiful.

These are just obvious differences off the top of my head. It is easy to see which lifestyle can adapt to a smaller carbon footprint more quickly, more eagerly and even cheerfully 🙂

Beetle Art Chasing Rainbows decals by Steve Wilson on black VW Beetle


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  1. inel, thanks. You know I value your input, particularly as someone who has lived both sides of the pond. 🙂

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