Friday, January 18, 2008

Sacrifice without pain

"Asking Americans to sacrifice has become the untouchable third rail of U.S. environmentalism," writes Jason Mark in Earth Island Journal, online at Utne, covering the renewed debate over nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emissions and combat global warming. It seems that it's either nukes or sacrifice (as in drastic energy conservation). Mark quotes Betsy Taylor of the Center for a New American Dream:
"I do think we are coming back to the old celebration of self-reliance and alternative technology at the local level. If we have a future with less oil and less nuclear, we will live differently, with less stuff and less energy consumption, but with more joy and more security. But we will have to rethink the McMansions and the two SUVs in the garage."
Mark concludes:
"That kind of vision makes nuclear power irrelevant. If we can reach a societal consensus that what we desire is a slower and smaller way of living, a reconceived notion of success, then we can fundamentally reformulate our energy system."
I don't see any groundswell for "slower and smaller," no matter how it's sweet-talked. Do you?


Anonymous said...


You are exactly right. The best we can do is make the costs of that big house and those multiple cars more explicit (i.e. impact fees and Pigouvian taxes).

kgander said...

The "Slow Food" and "Not So Big House" movements come to mind. Wouldn't characterize either as a groundswell, but interest in both seems to still be growing.

Give folks a fair system where such "sacrifices" are rewarded rather than punished, and you see build to something significant.