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Wednesday, 08 August 2012 17:11

The Problem is not with Waste, but with Climate… -how Perceptions Influence Behavior

Written by  Dr. Ulrich Wiegel & Martin Steiner

Climate protection achieved through low energy happiness generation

At this point a philosophical consideration of the avoidance issue is necessary:
As humans – apart from the securing of our basic survival needs – we ultimately aim for one thing: to be happy (according to competent studies “happiness” is the least common human condition by the way, and not attainable by directly trying). Now, happiness is a condition that exists only in our minds and is generated in essence by ourselves and our emotional response to external influences. If we can produce in ourselves the same level of happiness with reduced material and energy consumption, it can be referred to as climate friendly happiness.The initially noticeable satisfaction “loss” caused by abstention and effort is counterbalanced by the satisfaction ”benefit” caused by the certainty of “doing the right thing” (Mr Kant would be posthumously pleased by this consideration). This, we have already achieved with waste. If we were able to imagine greenhouse gases “materialized” in solid form according to the examples outlined above, we would be able to create within us an increasingly greater sense of happiness from the initially unpleasant sacrifice associated with “doing without”. This prospect appears to us – in view of what we regard as necessary to meet the basic requirements for an enjoyable and fulfilling life – as almost impossible to imagine. Rather, we prefer almost as a reflex response that – as per usual – technology will find a solution, and that the Chinese and Americans… we are quick to come up with extremely ´powerful´ arguments against the prospect of reduced consumption.
On the other hand we realize that in the waste sector we have – with the participation of the broader community and developments in technology and organizational framework – been able to achieve something which, at the end of the seventies, was also unimaginable. In the area of climate protection, technology, while vitally important, will not provide the whole answer; the challenge remains to shift our philosophical basis and value set. Only then will meaningful and efficient outcomes be achievable.
Hence a policy target for Central Europe´s foremost countries with regard to climate protection could read, coarsely broken up, as follows: One third by renewable energy One third savings by technical measures One third savings by changing values – leading to reduced consumption.
The technical/scientific knowledge for implementing a climate-related change of values is available and is gathering momentum. It is now a priority to keep this change of values in our conscience, and to increase its perceived importance.
Together, we have been able to develop a highly successful solution to the challenges of waste management. We now need to demonstrate to the world how best to respond to the climate challenge, through a combination of innovative technical measures and a society-wide “value change”.

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