Monday, November 12, 2007


This week on American Public Media, CONSUMED, an excellent series about overconsumption, sustainability and how/if to reconcile the two....

Can we really expect to green-shop our way out of this mess?

Half-listening this morning while multi-tasking, I stopped in my tracks to focus, finding myself cheering silently at what I was hearing. We're burning up copious amounts of petroleum to fuel our voracious appetites for stuff - new stuff certainly don't need, flown in from all over the world.....

And the real costs for this transcends the price tag big time. Pollution, climate change, environmental about the human costs - the thousands of lives lost to date in the war, so that we may continue our gas guzzling ways?

According to commentator Robert Frank, we need economic structures in place that demand us to pay the real price for consumer goods:

"The simplest solution would be a carbon tax that would force consumers to confront the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. Such a tax would raise the price of fuel sharply -- stuff from distant places would become much more expensive, and most people would buy much less of it."

He seems well aware that this would hardly fly with our current admin:

"A carbon tax proposal would be dead-on-arrival in Washington. If so, our problem is not that we don't know how to make the economy sustainable. Rather, it's that we simply lack the political will."

Check out this and other stories on Consumed: is our consumer society sustainable?


Dan said...

A revenue-neutral carbon tax would not be dead on arrival in Congress. Carbon taxes have already been proposed by powerful members of Congress. By the time climate change legislation is seriously considered, in 2009, voters and elected officials will understand that they are choosing between a revenue-neutral carbon tax and a cap-and-trade with huge windfalls for polluters. They'll both cost consumers about the same. A revenue-neutral carbon tax will be the obvious choice. For more details, including today's post on recent polling data, check out

Anonymous said...

Incidentally I also listened to this series. I completely agree with the segment you mentioned - we know the solution but we do not have the political will to carry it out. Jared Diamond said in 30-50 years we would not be able to live at the standard we are living today, given our current consumption rate. Even if his number is off, we KNOW that natural resources are limited. By consuming more than what nature can regenerate, sooner or later, the wheels and the breaks on the train will come loose, if not in our generation, then in our children's generation. The timeline really isn't that far. I honestly do not understand why it is important to us American consumers to buy lots of junk shipped from 7000 miles away then turn around and toss it in trash in a couple of months. Are most of us simply choosing to bury our heads in the sand?