Thoughts about consumerism and transport

According to the Swedish Environment Protection Agency [¹] is Swedish transport and consumption about 10 times higher than sustainable , therefore, I wonder how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport and consumption in an effective way.

Purchasing goods and services incl transport is a basic right in a liberal capitalist society, and therefore these liberal rights cannot be easily limited without solid arguments, especially about a very broad range of products, which emit greenhouse gases during their production, use, or destruction. However, I would argue that an effective, minimally invasive means to reduce supply is to reduce demand, which is in our society strongly controlled by advertisement. To me it seems that whenever a reasonable product is created which sells (eg a car), the industry uses ads to create even larger demand to make consumers buy even more than they need (eg two cars because the second one just looks so sexy) with the consequence that the industry pushes more and more products down the consumer’s throat, which he or she originally neither needed nor wanted. Therefore, possible ways forward could be:

  • restrict volume for ads in public media, incl printed or electronic media
  • add (drastic) planetary health risks warning similar to tobacco ads, e.g. “This transatlantic flight causes severe damage to our planet’s eco system.” with (drastic) images.
  • introduce an eco tax tax for all products depending on their negative ecological consequences, incl greenhouse gas emissions, to price in the ecological damage (which consequently follows the capitalist model).
  • use ads and campaigns to introduce re-used products to new products and associate social status with re-used products. For example, a computer which is really old, but still working should be perceived as superior in design and quality, compared to a new product which might have to replaced in a few years and has not demonstrated its value yet.

Here, each of us can contribute to a change in mind sets by providing consistent feedback and reinforcement for ecological behaviors of our social network.  For example, by withholding positive reinforcement (e.g. silence after a friend showed us his new car or new dress) or stimulating questions (e.g. Why have you bought it? Do you really need it?) for irresponsible behavior, and positive reinforcement (e.g. attention, smiles, praise) for responsible behavior.

[1] Naturvardsverket (2018-11-28) . Konsumtionsbaserade växthusgasutsläpp per person och år. URL: https://www.naturvardsverket.se/Sa-mar-miljon/Statistik-A-O/Vaxthusgaser-konsumtionsbaserade-utslapp-per-person/

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