Posted by steve on January 29, 2005
Done some research on my standard of living image stream. My problem with STANDARD OF LIVING as a sustainability tool is that is often measured in terms of financial health: the quantity – in financial terms – of consumption by the members of that population. The sites posting definitions like this include the drawbacks of this definition. It does not take into account factors like crime rates and environmental damage.
The United Nations regards standard of living in another light: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being for themselves and their family.
To me, it seems too simple almost. Each country defines for itself what it means by a standard of living and the degree to which inhabitants should achieve it. Then they set about a way to produce that standard within the boundaries set by the ecological footprint capacity of that country. Let’s explore a few scenarios:
a) “Tough luck” attitude. No goals for the percentage population to achieve that standard and no priority given to using footprint-consuming fossil fuels etc on producing the standard. No priority given to keeping emissions equivalent to capacity of country area.
b) “Political attitude”. Goals for everyone to reach the minimum standard. Priority given to using footprint-consuming fossil fuels to produce that standard, and keeping within capacity or buying “rights”.
c) “Green approach”. Standard of living determined in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy. First two needs (security and physiological needs) as basis of prioritizing use of footprint-consuming fossil fuels etc. Keeps within limits.
d) “Full sustainable” combination of green and political. Standard produced for everyone, with focus on doing it cheaply, effectively with minimum emissions.
But (d) would mean in practice that a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being for people and their families could be easily available for everyone – even the lazy and nasty. I can imagine many would be up in arms; the attitude that we must work hard, all our lives, slave away etc is ingrained in our society. Missionaries in Tahiti chopped down all the breadfuit trees because they thought the natives had it too good, and therefore would never convert to Christianity. In fact the idea of being able to produce a standard of living effectively (read reduced working week) for all is downright DECANDANT!
But this is already being done. Studies of the Amish and others show they work a lot less than a 40 hour week. If everyone on the planet could achieve a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being for themselves and their family that only required, say, a ten hour week, GREAT!
I know many who are royally fed up with going to work and slaving away and being so stressed it is harming their health and life quality. And after paying basic bills they have little money left over for “Luxury” consumption.
I say, it must be possible .. let’s go set it up!
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