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Stop talking about lifestyle

Today’s episode of “Sacrifice is for Suckers” is dedicated to Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski, who recently warned that climate change is going to force some difficult choices on Americans who are used to having their cake and burgers and ice cream and SUVs too:

> “Other than taxes,” he added, “the hardest thing I find to talk with my constituents and my citizens about is about changing lifestyles.”

David Roberts brings the good news to Governor Ted:

> **Americans are always changing their lifestyles.** In just my living memory, shopping has moved to the web, interpersonal communication has become ubiquitous, urbanization has accelerated, newspapers have all but died, etc. etc. Lifestyles are never static. It’s just that people don’t tend to notice lifestyle changes as such because they happen gradually.

Just as importantly, we *enjoy* changing our lifestyles, because change is generally for the better. This is true for our high-definition televisions, and it will be true of our low-carbon lives as well.

I’ve made these points before. One additional point. Governor Ted also said, “There’s a lifestyle issue involved in this, about our penchant for consumerism and consumption.”

You hear this a lot from certain quarters, this notion that we’ve simply got to “consume less” if we’re going to live in harmony with the planet. I’m never really sure what this means. We can keep living exactly as we do now, but we just need to buy 23% less stuff? We should fast every other Tuesday? We should spend two nights a week in the dark?

Of course, we do need to consume less of some of the things we’re presently consuming — fossil fuels in particular — but it’s nonsense to suggest that in the future we’ll consume less overall. We’ll just consume different stuff, stuff we can’t imagine right now, stuff we’ll like a lot.

(As an aside, Governor Ted seems like a nice guy who rides a bicycle to work, so I don’t mean to pick on him. I just find this framing of the climate change problem to be counterproductive.)

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