Intimacy Instead of Consumption

“Have More Sex to Save The Planet” reads the headline on this Times Online Green Central Blog Post. Certainly, it’s quite an attention grabber. Unfortunately the post itself is quite simplistic and does little to create a positive image of sustainability and environmentalism. Humans will have to grapple with shrinking the environmental footprint of our activities, and soon. As the Times Online post highlights, drawing happiness from non-market goods such as family time, or intimate relationships might provide greater fulfillment and less waste.

One wonders though, what kind of imagery that language conjures. The modern environmentalist community has been careful to avoid associations with so-called “hippies” of the 1960s. Talking about sex saving the planet evokes images of utopian communes. Still more alarming is Flintoff’s unsubstantiated, doom-and-gloom assertion that emission cutbacks will cause wholesale economic collapse:

There’s never been a time when such cuts didn’t dovetail with economic doom. (The collapse of the Soviet Union led to reductions of just five per cent.)”

This is insanely unproductive and frankly, unintelligent. People are not moved to action by doomsaying. They discount the disaster as improbable and wrongly assume that if the prophet of doom is right, small changes would not matter. This problem has plagued environmetalists for as long as there have been environmentalists. Positive thoughts, such as how great it will feel to secure the future for our decendants will better move people to action. Besides, Flintoff has reversed the true direction of causation: The Soviet Union collapse was loss of production in one part of the world causing emission reduction, not emission reduction causing economic contraction. Of course producing much less will accidentally decrease emissions, but when the main goal is to cut emissions, there are smarter ways to do that, such as using cleaner, more sustainable processes. Perhaps the media has gone a little overboard in making “green jobs” into a hot buzz-phrase, but there will be employment opportunities in cleaning up society’s collective environmental footprint.

Although the point, that there is happiness in non-market goods, is sound, Flintoff must be careful not to frighten away mainstrream support from environmentalism by re-associating it with old-fashioned stereotypes that no longer apply. Some commenters on the original post also noted the important distinction between sex and safe sex, certainly there’s nothing inherently better for the environment about high-risk behavior or unwanted pregnancy.

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One Response

  1. Incidentally, as a note to our readers, please pardon the tardiness of this post. You might notice that the original Flintoff blogpost was dated quite some time ago. The topic seemed to me to be less a news story and more a pervasive problem with environmental journalism, so I decided it was better to post late than never.

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