Culture, Consumption, and Global ?· Culture, Consumption, and Global Warming ... • But why so much…

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  • Culture, Consumption, and Global Warming

    John HookerCarnegie Mellon University

    February 2009

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

    Per capita consumption is rising rapidly in the developing world.

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

    Per capita consumption is rising rapidly in the developing world.

    This is where most people live.

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

    Per capita consumption is rising rapidly in the developing world.

    This is where most people live. Our consumption pattern is a second-order effect.

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

    Per capita consumption is rising rapidly in the developing world.

    This is where most people live. Our consumption pattern is a second-order effect. As their consumption habits approach ours we dont

    even want to think about what happens.

  • The Situation

    When it comes to environment and climate changeconsumption is the driving force.

    Per capita consumption is rising rapidly in the developing world.

    This is where most people live. Our consumption pattern is a second-order effect. As their consumption habits approach ours we dont

    want to think about what happens. When it comes to consumption, culture is the driving

    force

  • Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Per capita energy consumption

    0.0

    50.0

    100.0

    150.0

    200.0

    250.0

    300.0

    350.0

    1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005

    Year

    Mil

    lio

    n B

    TU

    N America

    Russia etc

    Europe

    Middle East

    S America

    Asia

    Africa

  • Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Total energy consumption

    0.000

    20.000

    40.000

    60.000

    80.000

    100.000

    120.000

    140.000

    160.000

    1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005

    Year

    10^

    15 B

    TU

    /yr

    N America

    Europe

    Asia

    Russia etc

    S America

    Africa

    Middle East

  • Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Per capita energy consumption

    0.0

    50.0

    100.0

    150.0

    200.0

    250.0

    300.0

    350.0

    400.0

    1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005

    Year

    Mil

    lio

    n B

    TU USA

    Europe

    China

    India

  • Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Total energy consumption

    0.000

    20.000

    40.000

    60.000

    80.000

    100.000

    120.000

    1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005

    Year

    10^

    15 B

    TU

    /yr

    USA

    Europe

    China

    India

  • Effect of world development outside N. America to European per capita energy consumption rate

    0

    100

    200

    300

    400

    500

    600

    700

    800

    900

    1,000

    Asia

    N. A

    mer

    ica

    Euro

    peRu

    ssia

    etc.

    S. A

    meric

    aM

    iddle

    East

    Afric

    aW

    orld

    Tota

    l

    10^

    15 B

    TU

    Now

    European scenario

    Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

  • Per capita energy consumption vs. per capita GDP

    Source: International Energy Agency, Frank van Mierlo in Wikipedia

  • Source: Based on data reported by U.S. Energy Information Administration

    Effect of world development outside N. America to European and U.S. per capita energy consumption rate

    0.000

    200.000

    400.000

    600.000

    800.000

    1,000.000

    1,200.000

    1,400.000

    1,600.000

    1,800.000

    2,000.000

    Asia

    N. A

    mer

    ica

    Euro

    peRu

    ssia

    etc.

    S. A

    meric

    aM

    iddle

    East

    Afric

    aW

    orld

    Tota

    lNow

    European scenario

    U.S. scenario

  • Cultural Attitudes toward Consumption

    Tlingit, Kwakiutl

    Longhouse, site of potlatchConspicuous consumption

  • Cultural Attitudes toward Consumption

    Some Chinese subcultures

    How much is the rent?If you have to ask, you cant afford it.

    To be rich is glorious

  • Cultural Attitudes toward Consumption

    Bantu-speaking peoples

    Shona gathering, Zimbabwe

  • Cultural Attitudes toward Consumption

    Ladakh See Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient futures : Learning from

    Ladakh, 1991

    Having a good time in Ladakh

  • Concepts of Development

    We Westerners equate development with technological development. Why?

  • Concepts of Development

    We Westerners equate development with technological development. Why?

    We rely fundamentally on technology.

    We universalize our approach to life. We believe development = being more like us

    So we judge others by the state of their technology.

  • Concepts of Development

    Cultural role of technology In the West, technology is

    the primary coping mechanism

    Western development = technological development

    Medical technology

  • Concepts of Development

    Cultural role of technology In the West, technology is

    the primary coping mechanism

    Western development = technological development

    We are better at technologybecause we rely on it more Other cultures rely more on

    relationships.

    Family, friends, groupsolidarity, etc.

    Medical technology

  • Concepts of Development

    If cultures are so different, why do so many accept the Western concept of development?

  • Buy-in to Western-style Development

    Cultures have always borrowed ideas Some obvious benefits of Western technology.

    But why so much focus on consumer goods?

    Mobile phones, Japan

  • Buy-in to Western-style Development

    Role of imitation in cultural evolution. People are more imitative than apes. Particularly, imitation of successful or high-status individuals.

    Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd, Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution

  • Buy-in to Western-style Development

    Due Western economic hegemony, elites are likely to have links to the West. Elites adopt elements of Western lifestyle, including consumer

    goods.

    They are emulated.

    Mercedes-Benz in Port-au-Prince

  • What to Do?

    Lifestyle change in the West will have little direct effect. Developing countries dominate the picture.

    But rest of the world may emulate Western example.

  • What to Do?

    Consumption need not play a central role in U.S. culture. We criticize our own

    consumerism and materialistic lifestyle.

    Sam Walton. Drove an old pickup, never paid more than $5 for a haircut.

  • What to Do?

    As prosperity rises, happiness falls. Very happy scores fell about 5% in the last 30 years.

    Source: D. G. Myers, The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty

  • What to Do?

    But advertisers vigorously promote Western consumer goods to elites worldwide.

    Media and entertainment depict successful and glamorous people as consumers.

    7-star hotel, Dubai

  • Corporate Responsibility

    Multinational corporations have most direct control over design and marketing of consumer goods globally. Control of media, product development.

  • Corporate Responsibility

    Multinational corporations have most direct control over design and marketing of consumer goods globally. Control of media, product development.

    MNCs will be islands of stability in a chaotic century. Destablizers: oil, water, climate change, financial/monetary

    system, ethnic/religious conflict, aging populations, global epidemics, decline of USA.

    Many complain about corporate power, but we will increasingly rely on it.

  • Corporate Responsibility

    Multinational corporations have most direct control over design and marketing of consumer goods globally. Control of media, product development.

    MNCs will be islands of stability in a chaotic century. Destablizers: oil, water, climate change, financial/monetary

    system, ethnic/religious conflict, aging populations, global epidemics, decline of USA.

    Many complain about corporate power, but we will increasingly rely on it.

    MNCs will be directly responsible for maintaining conditions necessary for their own existence. Some already understand this.

  • Visible Urgency

    Developing nations are already dealing with environmental crisis.

    Garbage dump, Guiyu, China

    Air pollution in eastern China, seen from

    satellite

  • Visible Urgency

    Infrastructure is already overwhelmed.

    Traffic, Delhi

    Traffic, Bangkok

  • Alternative to Material Consumption

    Replace consumer goods with lifelong learning. Predicted by anthropologist

    Mary Catherine Bateson

    Learning is more satisfying than consumption.

    Not resource intensive.

    Byproduct: knowledge.

  • More Cultural Support

    Abundance of choice is expensive. Too much choice can make us

    unhappy. Barry Schwartz, The Costs of Living:

    How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life

    Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.

    If culture determines more life choices, we may be more content.

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