One of the most important social, economic and environmental questions is: what do we do once we have enough food and shelter? This is relevant for two or three billion people on the planet, and among those are the people with the biggest resource footprint.
One way of approaching this question is to map different lifestyles on a graph of fulfillment against footprint.
Here are caricatures of the occupants of the four main quadrants:
(1) The couch-potato – low footprint, low fulfillment. He is probably quite content so leave him be.
(2) The shopaholic – high footprint, low fulfillment. She is typically stressed, anxious and unhappy and has a huge footprint. Work is needed here to give this person purpose in life and fend off insidious accusations that by curing the shopaholic you destroy the economy.
(3) The achiever – high footprint, high fulfillment. Although his fulfillment is probably rather self-centred, he lives a full life. The problem is the footprint. The techno-optimists have a solution – make everything he uses clean-tech. Others wonder if this is feasible or just encouraging something which is inherently undesirable. The key here is to give the achiever a vocation so that his or her enterprise, tremendous energies, intellectual fire-power and charisma are turned to more important problems than selling fizzy drinks.
(4) The philosopher – low footprint, high fulfillment. Other inhabitants of this utopian quadrant are the gardener and the monk or nun. This is where people need to be shifted towards – gardening for physical fulfillment, thinking for intellectual fulfillment.
From this analysis the challenges of climate policy take on a different light.