Population explosion, raw materials shortage, environmental pollution: science predicts hard times for us. Slowing growth has long been advocated as a solution to these problems. How is that possible in a society where consumption promises happiness?
Stephanie Moser of the Center for Development and Environment at the University of Bern explains why less could be more.
Dr. Stephanie Moser heads the Department of “Fair Economic Systems” at the Center for Development and Environment at the University of Bern. Among other things, it conducts research on sustainable consumer behavior.
SRF: Why do I find saving in economics a good thing?
Stephanie Moser: Less also gives us an opportunity to free ourselves from the pressures of consumers. Perhaps we will not be able to avoid changing our consumption and lifestyle if we are to conform to the limits of the planets. By that I mean the limits that our planet sets in terms of materials, raw materials, energy, but also emissions.
Sustainability research has coined the term adequacy. What does that mean specifically?
Sufficiency can be understood at different levels of society. In my daily life, it may mean that I use less energy and raw materials to meet my needs.
This does not in and of itself mean that I consume less, it just means that I consume differently. For example, by purchasing high-quality products with a long service life. Products that can be repaired or moved instead of buying new ones over and over again.
Is sufficiency the only panacea?
No not at all. Sufficiency is not limited to the living environment of the individual, but can be understood as a strategy for the level of society as a whole. This means that, in absolute numbers, we separate the consumption of our natural resources from our prosperity and our quality of life.
Sufficiency is just one of many possible strategies. For example, the efficiency strategy is better known – that we can achieve the same thing with less energy. Or consistency: for example, that we’re trying to use renewable energies instead of fossil fuels.
Sufficiency is related to how much time we have to think about what is good for us.
But who likes to leave their comfort zone and change their habits? How can one make adequate life palatable?
On the other hand, by rearranging our living environments: how we build our homes, design our places, the offerings available to us in stores or how far we move.
On the other hand, sufficiency is closely related to the amount of time we have to think about what is useful to us.
I have examined how our income relates to our desire to be frugal. What do you find?
We have seen that people with higher incomes tend to use more energy and therefore have a larger carbon footprint. More income means that people are more likely to buy organic products or energy-efficient appliances.
But if you have more of these devices, live in larger apartments, fly a lot or drive larger cars, this effect will wear off quickly.
Interviewed by Catherine Baker.
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