Our way of life must change if we want to avoid climate breakdown—but how much can we do as individuals? Ahead of the upcoming ICTA-UAB Conference on Low-Carbon Lifestyle Changes, Joël Foramitti, Lorraine Whitmarsh and Angela Druckman are outlining a roadmap.
Recent news about the state of our planet is alarming. Scientists warn about an “existential threat to civilization”, as we might already be crossing a series of climate tipping points that could lead to the irreversible loss of, for example, the West Antarctic ice sheet and the Amazon rain forest. Thanks to social movements, awareness of this problem has risen considerably. But we are currently failing to take the necessary actions, and greenhouse gas levels continue to rise. We are trapped in a culture that seeks status and fun through consumerism, in a political debate that is manipulated by vested interests of the fossil fuel industry, and in an economic system that is perceived to become unstable if there is a lack of economic growth.
In this commentary we discuss some promising ways to move towards low-carbon lifestyles – a topic that is the subject of the upcoming ICTA-UAB Conference on Low-Carbon Lifestyle Changes. Before going further, we need to make it clear that our arguments apply mostly to Western cultures, as these are where most emissions are caused and where changes towards low-carbon lifestyles are most necessary. Furthermore, the choices discussed here do not generally apply to people on low incomes, as they tend to have lower carbon footprints and less financial freedom to choose.
Our central argument is that the emissions of our economy are deeply connected to the way we live: the goals we pursue, the values and practices we share, the stuff we buy, and the jobs in which we work.
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