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Lucas_GND_lifestyle Wellbeing Behaviour Changes

Lucas_GND_lifestyle Wellbeing Behaviour Changes

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Published by: Tasos Krommydas on Dec 16, 2012
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01/06/2013

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The Green New Deal: Lifestyle, Well-being, and Behaviour Changes
Caroline Lucas
Summary
1. One of the key ways to promote the uptake of the Green New Deal will be to demonstratethat the policies at its heart are about improving our quality of life, not about “giving thingsup”. Prosperity without growth is a realistic and achievable goal.2. Lifestyle change isn’t an alternative to policy change. Governments have an important roleto play in providing an "enabling policy framework" which will make it easier for people tomake lifestyle changes.3. Individuals will play their part when they believe governments are playing theirs. A far more ambitious and consistent position from EU governments is needed so people believe thatclimate change really is as big a threat to our security as any military threat - we need more of a "war-time" mentality in terms of the urgency and consistency with which this agenda needsto be promoted. 4. We need to communicate positively about the Green New Deal, stressing the many benefitsthat will result - eg better public transport, stronger local communities, more stable localeconomies. We need to change the whole discourse around the climate crisis so that it's seen asone of opportunity, not just threat.5. The Green New Deal offers an opportunity to combine the ecological transformation of European societies with better work-life balance in which men and women equally shareresponsibilities in public and private domains, in economic, political and family life.
 
Introduction
The Green New Deal offers an historic opportunity to tackle both the climate crisis and theeconomic crisis at the same time, creating millions of new Green jobs, and kick-starting theurgently needed transformation to a post-carbon economy.Other papers/chapters in this Green New Deal report have set out the huge range of benefitswhich will flow from this transition: a more stable, resilient and accountable financial system,more efficient and competitive industry, millions of new Green jobs, and a stronger, fairer socialEurope.Yet despite much public interest in the idea, and growing political debate, there has so far beenvery little progress towards actually implementing it. The negligible “green” component of thefiscal packages recently announced by a number of EU member states, for example, is just thelatest reflection of a dismal failure of political ambition.As politicians start to compete with one another over proposals to get back to “business as usual”as soon as possible, many proposing draconian measures to slash public spending, it’s crucial tomake the case that it is precisely the economics of business as usual which have caused theeconomic and climate crises. Now is the moment not only to highlight again the positive impacts of a Green New Deal, butalso to identify the obstacles to achieving it. Why has this proposal not had more success? Andwhat is the role of individuals in accelerating this transition to a greener, fairer Europe?
Growth versus Well-being
Our addiction to consumerism makes many people believe that we have already lost the battle for the policies at the heart of the Green New Deal, which would address both the climate and theeconomic crises. As well as leading most of us into an ostrich-like denial of its implications for our way of life, the strength of the consumerist ethos has reduced governments to a state of  paralysis, too nervous of the electorate to dare to implement any policy capable of making a realdifference.Yet given the failure of the economic model based on ever more growth and consumption, this isnot a little perverse. In the past four decades, most people in the EU have become vastly morewealthy, and yet no happier. At the same time, environmental problems, above all climatechange, suggest that our current lifestyles have potentially catastrophic consequences.There is much talk of costs and sacrifice, of a need to give up our cherished consumer indulgences in response to global environmental crises. Yet this is to misunderstand thechallenge, and to ignore the opportunity. Since individual and general well-being aren’t wellserved by the resource-hungry path we’ve chosen, facing up to the current global challengescould, in fact, propel us towards much better ways of living. Indeed, tackling environmental problems gives us an extraordinary opportunity to pause and rethink the way we live.The advocates of the Green New Deal believe that the politics of sustainability and the politics of well-being go hand in hand; that if policies to address the climate crisis require a differenteconomic paradigm, one that isn’t based on ever increasing, resource-based growth, then that’s to be welcomed, since such a paradigm is likely to have a much better chance of improving our well-being as well. Put simply, the policies we need to live good lives are precisely the policieswe need to tackle the twin environmental and economic challenges we face today.
 
Over the past few years, there has been a growing understanding of this connection. Anincreasing number of reports are underlining the fact that happiness and well-being do notdepend on endless economic growth and material wealth, but rather on contented families, strongcommunities, meaningful work, and personal freedom. There is a dawning understanding thattreating GDP as a useful proxy for well-being can be extraordinarily misleading; and that goodlives – defined as happy and fulfilling ones – don’t have to cost the earth.The recent report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and SocialProgress, set up by President Sarkozy, for example, makes clear that while conventionaleconomic theory assumes that rising consumer expenditure is strongly related to individuals' well being, the reality is often very different; that “traffic jams may increase GDP as a result of theincreased use of gasoline, but obviously not the quality of life. Moreover, if citizens areconcerned about the quality of air, and air population is increasing, then statistical measureswhich ignore air pollution will provide an inaccurate estimate of what is happening to citizens'well-being”.
i
In this paper, the terms “well-being” and “happiness” are used interchangeably, although there isa growing literature which equates happiness with pleasure, but attributes to well-being a deeper sense of developing as a person, being fulfilled and contributing to society. The British writer and psychologist Oliver James sums this up more succinctly than most: “I regard happiness aschimeric and temporary, akin to pleasure, and I tend to agree with the saying ‘we were not put onthis Earth to be happy’….my focus is on why we are so fucked up, not with dangling a false promise of the possibility of happiness”.
But whether good lives are defined as happy lives or lives of well-being, the bottom line is this:that living a good life and safeguarding our environment are not only compatible, they areinextricably linked and mutually dependent. It serves both our own well-being and the well- being of the planet radically to reform our deeply unsustainable economic system, based on theever increasing consumption and waste of natural resources.
The Growth Dilemma
But what is an economy not based on growth to look like, how will it serve its citizens, and – crucially – how can politicians be persuaded to propose such radical change? MurrayBookchin, the American philosopher, sets out the scale of the challenge in his assertion that“capitalism can no more be “persuaded” to limit growth than a human being can be “persuaded”to give up breathing.”
First, it’s important to distinguish between growth – more of the same “stuff” – and development – the same amount of better stuff. A steady-state system permits more qualitative development, but not more aggregate quantitative growth.
 Second, we need to recognize that, after a certain level of satisfaction of basic needs is achieved,much consumption isn’t about need. Material goods also provide a vital language through wecommunicate with each other about the things that really matter: family, identity, friendship,community, purpose in life.According to a groundbreaking work by British authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, thecrucial key to reducing the cultural pressure to consume is through greater equality.
v
In
TheSpirit Level 
, they set out how greater equality makes growth much less necessary. It is, theyargue, “a precondition for a steady-state economy.” A great deal of what drives consumption isstatus competition, so that inequality ratchets up the competitive pressure to consume. Thiswould explain, for example, why more unequal countries spend a higher proportion of their GDPon advertising, with the US and New Zealand spending twice as much as Norway and Denmark.

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