Thursday, January 7, 2010

Our "reduced" standard of living

Just a few days ago, I got one of the most rewarding messages. My cousin wrote me “Happy 2010! Thank you for teaching me new things and bringing important things to my attention.” I guess I have to add the disclaimer that I am extremely liberal and that she is quite conservative, but I think the experiences and conversations we shared in 2009 are proof that when it comes to saving our planet and bettering our lives it does not matter if you are conservative or liberal, republican or democrat, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or an atheist, the only thing that matters is that you educate yourself on what it means to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

An economist today on NPR said that given the state of the world, we have to get used to a reduced standard of living. I don’t disagree with him, our standards of living have to change and yes, it will be “reduced” compared to the way we live now, but I’m not so sure that that is a bad thing. Will it really be so bad to use more public transportation or our bicycles instead of our cars? Or even drive a small hybrid car instead of a massive SVU? Who said that a car indicates a higher standard of living than a bicycle? Or that the size of your car delineates your wealth? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade my fuel-efficient Honda for a gas-guzzling SUV for anything and I am actually waiting for the day I can “reduce” my standard of living to a smaller hybrid car that is friendlier on the planet AND my wallet! Not to mention that in Amsterdam for example, people never even consider buying a car. On the contrary, they want the ugliest bike they can find, so that no one will try to steal it.

Sure, we have to get used to a “reduced” lifestyle, but you might not miss the stuff you are giving up quite as much as you think you will. Just think back to your childhood…what are your favorite memories? Is it that big TV, big car or expensive game? I don’t know, maybe it is for you, but for me, the things I remember and treasure most from my childhood are the family trips we took, the stories that were told, the home-cooked meals and the game nights. Just last week I was at home and what I craved most was my mom’s New Year’s soup and a night at home playing Chinese Checkers and Rummikub. I don't think any material good could ever replace that...

1 comment:

  1. well said, Gabi! So many people are unwilling to "reduce" their standard of living in order to protect the planet or help increase the standard of living of others. In reality, I think everyone's standard of living would improve if we had better public transport, safer bike paths (exercise makes you happy AND healthy!), more access to fresh, local foods and spent less time working to accumulate more wealth and more time with friends and family. Standard of living is really a matter of perspective, and I think our society needs to make a big change in how it views progress and wealth.