Monday, October 26, 2009

European Values


To save the world we need to slow birthing in poor nations and slow consumption in rich countries. It sounds so simple, yet it’s incredibly complex and difficult. This post looks at slowing consumption, and at the United States in particular.

The American dream is built on: unfettered growth, every man for himself, the rights of the individual, and the belief that anyone can become rich or famous. When there are unlimited resources, this attitude works for there is plenty of wealth to go around.

But now the U.S. population is over 300 million, national oil is long past its peak, other resources are dwindling, smog and pollution are ubiquitous, space in the big cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago is cramped, there is a large chasm between the rich and poor, and the US has the highest murder rate of the developed countries. Then there's the current economic crisis, a slap in the face, a sure sign that times have changed and that the American way no longer works. There’s a desperate need for a change of attitude, a fresh approah. But how to change?

Jeremy Rifkin in his book, The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, provides some valuable guidance. Europeans value: the common good rather than individualism; quality of life over accumulated wealth; sustainable development over unlimited material growth; deep play over unrelenting toil; the rights of nature over the rights of individual property rights; and global cooperation over unilateral flexing of military power. Furthermore, most western European nations have slowed their population growth to equilibrium, or even lower, rates.

If we want to save the future we need, more than anything else, to change our mindset. Europe has set a fine example; let’s follow it.

5 comments:

SESALMONY@aol.com said...

With the blessings of many super-rich benefactors and the adamant advocacy of many too many obscenely-enriched minions as well as the silent, condoning consent of an acquiescent majority of the human community, would it be the most colossal crime in human history if a tiny minority of wealthy and powerful people in a single generation acted arrogantly, foolishly, greedily in patently unsustainable ways and, by so doing, precipitated the ruin of Earth as a fit place for habitation by the children and life as we know it?

SESALMONY@aol.com said...

It seems somehow not quite right to suggest that the colossal global ecological challenges presenting themselves to the human family in our time are "signs and symptoms" of the Earth somehow dying naturally. Please consider that Earth's body and its environs are now besieged and threatened with ruin by distinctly human-driven, too big to fail or succeed overproduction corporations; by conspicuous per-capita overconsumption and excessive hoarding of limited resources among a tiny minority of humanity; and by the gigantic scale and skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers among the great majority of the human community. If human beings were to adopt sustanability as a "living standard" in its production, consumption and propagation acitivities worldwide, there would not be an immediately evident and readily identifiable threat to the integrity of our planetary home; to life as we know it; or to the future of the children.

kurtzsb said...

Item from UK chief Rabbi will raise your blood pressure:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/05/birth-rate-chief-rabbi-sacks

Please email me.

Steve Kurtz

theophillussmith said...

Consumption doesn't necessarily decrease as a nation's population growth slows. Due to the current demographic transition in Italy, the median age of Italian citizens is rising each year. The economic result is actually increased consumption by the aging population, as well as increased savings. This is made possible by the traditional transfer of wealth from parents to family grinding to a halt as familial connections disappear.
At the same time current trends actually suggest rising fertility rates in Europe. In essence, the fertility rates have bottomed out and slow population growth will probably accelerate again. This prediction defies the intuition of demographic transition theorists but it makes sense when examined as natural fluctuation.
I completely agree with your analysis of the differences between Europe and America, and the conclusion that America needs to follow Europe’s many examples. Europe has so much to teach the United States when it comes to knowing how to be a healthy, responsible developed nation. The American dream’s individualism and tolerance of a colossal gap between rich and poor is reaping its due rewards.
The political system in the U.S.A. is increasingly polarized and that is announced to the world by its volatile policy reversals and erratic interactions with other nations. The U.S. is a fundamentally sick nation; with its ideals of a small, capable, consistent central government forgotten in the midst of global hegemony and special interests advocacy it stands poised to fall from its position of global might.
American foreign policy has indeed been characterized by unrestrained military force through countless acts of warfare across the nation. The United States is embarrassing itself as it continues to act in accord with the outdated zeitgeist of bellicose imperialism. The U.S. Armed Forces still maintains military bases in over 60 countries in an attempt to preserve its military presence in even the most isolated regions. The West’s superpower needs to wake up and begin cleaning up its provocative and costly refuse that for some reason remains scattered over the Earth.
The world today deserves superpowers that show responsible use of power and do not engage in immoral and foolish actions. Like you said, as Europe puts the focus on international cooperation its domestic and political actions will become model policies for the United States to follow suit to. I hope the European Union’s example of up-to-date policies and teamwork spreads to the U.S.A. and P.R.C. as the status quo of globalized industries demands a unified response to the degradation of the Earth.

theophillussmith said...

I completely agree with your analysis of the differences between Europe and America, and the conclusion that America needs to follow Europe’s many examples. Europe has so much to teach the United States when it comes to knowing how to be a healthy, responsible developed nation. The American dream’s individualism and tolerance of a colossal gap between rich and poor is reaping its due rewards.
The political system in the U.S.A. is increasingly polarized and that is announced to the world by its volatile policy reversals and erratic interactions with other nations. The U.S. is a fundamentally sick nation; with its ideals of a small, capable, consistent central government forgotten in the midst of global hegemony and special interests advocacy it stands poised to fall from its position of global might.
American foreign policy has indeed been characterized by unrestrained military force through countless acts of warfare across the nation. The United States is embarrassing itself as it continues to act in accord with the outdated zeitgeist of bellicose imperialism. The U.S. Armed Forces still maintains military bases in over 60 countries in an attempt to preserve its military presence in even the most isolated regions. The West’s superpower needs to wake up and begin cleaning up its provocative and costly refuse that for some reason remains scattered over the Earth.
The world today deserves superpowers that show responsible use of power and do not engage in immoral and foolish actions. Like you said, as Europe puts the focus on international cooperation its domestic and political actions will become model policies for the United States to follow suit to. I hope the European Union’s example of up-to-date policies and teamwork spreads to the U.S.A. and P.R.C. as the status quo of globalized industries demands a unified response to the degradation of the Earth.