American Lifestyle Is the Problem and to Suggest Otherwise is Delusional

Consumption, over-polluting American lifestyle destroying the EarthWe are assured by Florida's Governor Crist that the American lifestyle is not incompatible with the need to address climate change [search] and reduce fossil fuel consumption. As paraphrased by Reuters, “Americans do not need to pare back their lifestyles to help protect the global environment but may need to use sugar or orange peel to power their energy-guzzling Hummers and Cigarette boats. ” It was awfully decent of Mr. Crist, a Republican, to unlike his compatriots, even acknowledge global heating is occurring, and introduce very modest efforts in Florida to reduce emissions. Yet he is dead wrong about what will be required to address climate change.


The crazily consumptive, super size, sexily scintillating, over the top American lifestyle is precisely the reason global climate is changing and the Earth's ecosystems collapsing. In a bit over two centuries a largely intact ecological continent has been over-populated, its forest liquidated, its waters abused, and oceans over-harvested. While lagging behind Europe and Asia in terms of degree of decimation of regional ecosystems, it is only because they have had longer. There has never been a resource consumption binge like the American century, and there never will be one again, because we have wastefully used most of the world's resources.
The American lifestyle is deeply, profoundly unsustainable. The gravest political peril in achieving global ecological sustainability is lack of politically skilled and viable leaders willing to tell the truth regarding the shape and scope of personal and societal change necessary to save the Earth and humankind. Shared sacrifice, living more simply yet fully, and reducing our family size, consumption, emissions and general ecological footprint; are all vital components of addressing climate change. As much of the world seeks to emulate our opulent, self-indulgent ways; the use of the Earth's resources has clearly moved beyond what it can sustainably provide.
We could have all the geo-engineering, certified forestry, coal sequestration and nuclear development in the world; and without greater conservation and efficiency we are only buying a bit of time There are not enough orange peels to fuel Hummers and Cigarette boats for any but the super rich. Yet these types of biofuels may well keep the lights on in a new frugal economy in touch with the Earth's needs and constraints. Shame on you Mr. Crist and all duplicitous political and economic powers that falsely and without merit suggest we can burn the Earth and sustain her too.
Climate policy can only be effective if based upon ecological truths. And one such truth is that going green DOES mean sacrificing the American lifestyle. And it is deeply wasteful of time and resources necessary to solve global ecological crises to suggest otherwise.

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15 Responses

  1. Chris Shaw says:

    Dear Dr Barry,
    It does seem fairly obvious that the American Lifestyle is "deeply, profoundly unsustainable". But how do we know?
    Of course, being poor is

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Here is the sheer magnitude of the problem, just considering the excess carbon in the active carbon cycle (but the other so-called greenhouse gases also have to be better controlled):
    The world's human population is currently adding about 8 billion tonnes of carbon to the active carbon cycle each year. This amount must be foregone or else sequestered deep underground.
    Once that is accomplished, we must also start removing some of the 500 billion tonnes of excess carbon already added since the beginning of the industrial era. If we don't, the sea stand will rise many meters over an unknown period of time.
    My estimate is that if we could possibly start now, sequestering an additional 7 billion tonnes per year ought to suffice to keep the sea stand from rising more than a few decimeters. That would be bad enough.
    If we don't start until later, then the rate of removal will have to go way, way up.
    (Current estimates of carbon sequestration costs are around US $40 per tonne of carbon, excepted to eventaully decline, through experience, to about US $25 per tonne. Less expensive than relocating coastal cities…)

  3. R. Gates says:

    The paragigm of consumerism and this ags of consumerism is the inevitable outcome of the pure capitalistic model of economic activity. A new economic model – one based on respect fo the balance of nature, where wealth is defined as “that which promotes harmony with the system” is needed. Either we find this new model soon while at the same time slowing and then stopping global warming, or we perish. The choice is simple but the challenge is complex and difficult.
    Modern Humans, otherwise known as Homo Consumerous must evolve or perish.

  4. Eric Olkkola says:

    I have been reading about climate change for years now and after reading the latest sea ice extent for sept 16 of this year I am shocked. Shocked that more scientists aren't screaming at the top of their lungs about changes to the climate that we are no longer in the early stages of. We as a people are at the treshhold of change. It is my belief that in as little as 10 years you will start to see population shifts and migrations of masses of people. Look at the science, if in 05 there was a little over 2 million sq m of ice and this past 07 extent there is 1.59. With the feedback of a less ice and a warming ocean It may be more like 8 years and no sea ice not 2030 like has been suggested. By the time the scientfic community is convinced that we are in tough straights here we will have glaciers bulldozing NYC. I don't believe we will ever see the day when Greenland will melt and sea levels will rise 24 feet. Before that happens, the great ocean conveyer will shut down or at least wain and we will experience something completely different. You have my email address, could someone explain to me why we as a country, a nation or people of the world are not preparing for this, thankyou Eric

  5. I couldn't agree with you more. However, I'm a Democrat who lives in Florida and, given the last name of Crist's predecessor, frankly, I'll take what I can get — even if all I can get is Crist's admission that since climate change will likely reduce the land mass of his state significantly, he'd better pay attention to it. Your post was well-said! 🙂

  6. Marcel says:

    Glen, time and time again I notice the total addiction to men's invention : money.It makes most of us so hooked to it that we completely focus on everything but nature.The source of our own ancestry , food, water, clean air, rain, and much more.The example of the Blattners in Congo recently confirms it once more.It seems that only were nature has become scarse it awakens the care for the environment a bit.Where there still is, things continue like usual : harvest everything and not just the surplus.
    At this moment in Curacao we go through historical high temperatures, combined with a high humidity and during the daytime an unbelievable burning of the sun.
    The elder generation (born 1917 and on) does not remember they experienced something like this.The rainy season changed from twice a year about 4 months to once about two months already ;this during halve a life time.
    Ofcourse we know why.But a lot think it is the wrath of God…
    I think what we developed with our brains and hands were means to escape from nature's laws. Escape the mucle labour and the wearing out of joints.
    But the only honest way to live in harmony with nature is found amongst the poorest peoples on this planet.The ones that do not (or in the mean time did not) use money.
    Without money there is a lot more fun, laughter and hapiness with the few things one shares.In our western world, there is the grindings of teeth getting the loot, the thought of attaining and keeping possesion, or the worying about not having, were are so clinging to life that we do total body irridiations and bonemarrow transplantations.
    Funny how such an abstract matter as money in the same way as God can alter an animal in such a way that it isolates itself completely from nature.
    Except maybe the poorest people still (?) living in harmony with their surroundings.( Hunza's, Ladakhi people, Yanomani's,Kogi's, Mennonites ).
    But maybe I am completely wrong.
    my greetings,
    Marcel Sommer

  7. zephyr says:

    Marcel Sommer wrote:
    …..But maybe I am completely wrong…..
    Oh, no no no.
    No, sir.
    What a magnificent, inspiring post you have submitted this evening.
    Please keep coming back and posting. Even the best-informed of us will always want to hear what you have to say.
    Thank you,
    zephyr

  8. danny bloom says:

    WE do need to change lifestyles. No more happy motoring, no more ICE era, Internal Combustion Era, and walking biking everywhere. See my take on future of “polar cities” if you want to see that far ahead. Most people don't. — DB

  9. Plainly, what is necessary now is intellectual honesty and courage as well as a willingness to begin "centering" the attention of the leaders of the human community on the threat to humanity, life as we know it, the environment and the integrity of Earth that is posed by the gigantic scale and evidently unsustainable growth rate of the human population worldwide.

  10. diogenes says:

    dear dr. barry.
    my mother taught be to be polite, so i will say only: after careful consideration, i have decided you are either a dope or you've been duped.

  11. Global climate change, sometimes referred to as global warming, is the looming environmental threat that all of us will have to face in the 21st century. Industrial society, based for 200 years on the combustion of oil, coal, and gas, has changed the basicmechanics of our planet's self-regulating temperature balance.
    Fortunately, people, companies, and governments around the world are taking steps to reduce fossil fuel emissions and change the way we produce and use energy. Their efforts are focused on reducing emissions, the key to long-term sustainability.
    There is another simple, effective way you can be part of the solution today: Plant a tree, cool the globe. You can plant trees to offset your personal carbon dioxide emissions and reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. Read on to learn how trees and forests, the skin of the earth, can help us in this critical effort to restabilize the Earth's atmosphere. Astaga.com lifestyle on the net-kaos distro online

  12. garryegg says:

    The American lifestyle is deeply, profoundly unsustainable. The gravest political peril in achieving global ecological sustainability is lack of politically skilled and viable leaders willing to tell the truth regarding the shape and scope of personal and societal change necessary to save the Earth and humankind. Shared sacrifice, living more simply yet fully, and reducing our family size, consumption, emissions and general ecological footprint; is a vital component of addressing climate change. As much of the world seeks to emulate our opulent, self-indulgent ways; the use of the Earth's resources has clearly moved beyond what it can sustainably provide. We could have all the geo-engineering, certified forestry, coal sequestration and nuclear development in the world; and without greater conservation and efficiency we are only buying a bit of time There are not enough orange peels to fuel Hummers and Cigarette boats for any but the super rich. Yet these types of biofuels may well keep the lights on in a new frugal economy in touch with the Earth's needs and constraints. Shame on you Mr. Crist and all duplicitous political and economic powers that falsely and without merit suggest we can burn the Earth and sustain her too. Climate policy can only be effective if based upon ecological truths. And one such truth is that going green DOES mean sacrificing the American lifestyle. And it is deeply wasteful of time and resources necessary to solve global ecological crises to suggest otherwise.Astaga.com lifestyle on the net

  13. Laura Etipio says:

    It's been years since we say that american lifestyle must change… but when will it really change, that's the real question…
    Scrabble Cheat

  14. Mohan says:

    We could have all the geo-engineering, certified forestry, coal sequestration and nuclear development in the world; and without greater conservation and efficiency we are only buying a bit of time There are not enough orange peels to fuel Hummers and Cigarette boats for any but the super rich. Yet these types of biofuels may well keep the lights on in a new frugal economy in touch with the Earth's needs and constraints.

  15. suchi says:

    what is necessary now is intellectual honesty and courage as well as a willingness to begin "centering" the attention of the leaders of the human community on the threat to humanity, life as we know it, the environment and the integrity of Earth that is posed by the gigantic scale and evidently unsustainable growth rate of the human population worldwide.
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