George Monboit

Several people have asked whether the rich world will accept the “drastic cuts in living standards” required to prevent environmental breakdown. I understand the question, and it is true that no one ever rioted for austerity. But I think there’s a different way of looking at it.

We have been induced to believe that our living standards are secured through private luxury. We have been encouraged, by advertising, marketing, the media and politics, to seek ever more for ourselves: bigger houses, bigger cars, more stuff to fill them with. But there is neither the physical nor ecological space for everyone to enjoy private luxury. If all the people of London got their own swimming pool and tennis court, London would cover all of England. We are quickly discovering the ecological limits of everyone seeking a mountain of stuff, as this pursuit sends us crashing through planetary boundaries. The reality is that one person’s private luxury is another person’s deprivation: the rich, under this system, intrude into the physical and ecological space needed by others.

However, there is enough physical and ecological space for everyone to enjoy public luxury: magnificent public parks and swimming pools, excellent mass transit systems (electric trams, trains, monorail etc), a rich cultural life that fills the void consumerism seeks – and fails – to fill. We can have a great quality of life and remain within ecological limits, but we have to give up the notion that we will achieve it on our own, through private accumulation. We can achieve it together, through the pooling of wealth. I’ve sought to boil this philosophy down to one phrase:

Private Sufficiency, Public Luxury

Citation and Use

The reading was taken from the following source.

Monbiot, George. “Author Comment, The Earth Is in a Death Spiral. It Will Take Radical Action to Save Us.” News. The Guardian, November 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/14/earth-death-spiral-radical-action-climate-breakdown#comment-122502985.

Used here with the written permission of the author.


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