Wednesday, March 3, 2010

tc: Assumed, infinitely expanding affluence - and commercialism

Rob writes at Transition Culture on Frank Field Tells It How It Is: “This Mega Debt Crisis Which Threatens Our Very Existence”

In commenting on the (excellent!) article, a couple of observations came to mind.

My comment about affluence and the poor is the artificial way welfare payments usually perpetuate an illusion of affluence – of continuing the pre-packaged, individual dwelling, individual transport lifestyle of the upper middle class. It doesn’t work for those receiving welfare, but it doesn’t help people achieve an independent, community-involved, secure way of life, either. What welfare does do for recipients and others pursuing the “looks like affluent” lifestyle is to perpetuate a demand for the high energy products and structure of living that keeps the world rooted in huge demands for oil.

I am trying to understand how there can be people in the past, such as pioneers and peasants, that could live lives from atrocious and fraught with insecurity – to comfortable – without oil and high energy products. Yet we aren’t trying to learn much, or involve today’s very poor, in breaking away from Government Minimum Standards.

Humankind survived and persisted to grow into out modern society – often with large families in single room dwellings. Yet today we are guilty of child abuse for putting three children in too small a bed room, and heaven forbid pubescent children should share a bed room with siblings or parents. Is this morality, or encapsulated conspicuous consumption?

Throughout history the elite have chosen attitudes and displays of wealth, often uncomfortable or requiring multiple assistants to dress or conduct their business of the day. How many of our attitudes must we challenge for sustainable energy suitability?

A part of my concern is to identify the directions for discretionary spending that those that have resources use. Where that spending is directed to sustainable choices is fine, and needs to be identified and encourage. But it seems most of the worst, failing supports of today's mindset occurs where better choices could be made - discretionary spending. It doesn't take a lot of extra assets to borrow for a car, to buy a home miles and miles from work, to buy into the hype about needing to redecorate the living room for appearances. Buying new cars (with the mining, transportation, manufacturing energy required, disposal of the old vehicle, etc.) cannot be the answer to reducing energy expended on long commutes from bedroom communities to big industrial and office employment centers. Transforming corridors through the countryside and villages and cities, building out the infrastructure and equipment for rail or light rail - which I haven't seen many proposals for mule pulled or wood burning options - or using buses on existing street, still perpetuate the myth that only central, massive employment centers make sense. For today's concentrated wealth paradigm. I do *not* understand that antipathy to "big box stores", and not an anger at the zoning support and underlying assumptions of the big employer, where the assumption is to commute long distances - because the employment is fickle and changes rapidly.

Any entity that assumes a customer/employee base from further than a healthy walking distance, perhaps 1-2 km, should be examined. And challenged.

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