It is not the intent of this blog to comment upon Australian politics in particular. However, the comment does suggest a theme that is worthy of comment: the lifestyle choices that we in the western, rich nations make time and time again. Choices that; marginalise indigenous people, create enormous inequalities, contribute disproportionally to climate change, allow large transnationals to control food supplies, and continuously exploit others (including animals and the earth).
Beneath the choices that we make lies the assumption that “our” choice is the right one, perhaps even the only one. Inherent in that assumption is the belief that indigenous people, people of colour, those with disabilities, those with differing sexualities, or people with different cultural or religious understandings are making poor or inappropriate decisions.
But, consider these lifestyle choices that western culture makes2:
- We choose to consume at a level that if everyone on earth were to do so, four and half Earth-like planets would be needed.
- We choose to grab land from peasant farmers in India, Africa, Asia and South America.
- We choose to use our private car to travel less than 5km, rather than using our feet, a bicycle or public transport.3
- We choose to condone an economic system where the assets of the world’s 200 richest people are greater than the GDP of the entire African continent.
- We choose to spend over $1 trillion on our militaries. The cost of providing clean water and sanitation to the 2 billion people without this basic need is approximately 3 days worth of this expenditure!
- We choose to consume enormous amounts of calories – growing obese in the process, whilst 900 million people are undernourished.
- We choose to throw away each year almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).4
- We choose to chop down the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest cover every minute – contributing between 12% and 25% of human-induced CO2 emissions.5
- We choose to spend $523 billion subsidising the fossil fuel industry, yet only $135 billion on climate change initiatives.6
- We choose to produce 2.2 kg of waste per person per day – and we are producing 35% more than we did in 1980.7
Surely, these are the lifestyle choices that are not conducive to the kind of full participation in the world society that everyone should have.
1. Tony Abbot’s speech, delivered on Tuesday 10 March 2015, included the words: "What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have."
2. These choices are generalisations. It should not be taken that every person living in a western culture makes these choices. There are significant numbers searching for, and practicing alternatives to these choices.
3. In most western nations, around 60% of all car trips are of less than 5km in length.
4. UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report Global Food Losses and Food Waste, 2011
5. Science, 15 November 2013, Vol 342, no. 6160 pp. 850-853.
6. OECD report.
7. What a Waste: A global review of solid waste management, The World Bank, 2012