Living Low-Income Better For the Earth, Swedish Study Says

Plastic Trashed Tent photo

Cleaning up after yourself in the forest is only worth it if politics remembers to save the trees. Photo: Wojtek Mejor @ flickr.

Swedes love the fact that they are good recyclers, eat a lot of organic food, and buy a lot of 'green' cars. These values have become part of the cultural fabric - an expected part of "being Swedish" that can lead to green guilt if you don't measure up. However, cultural sociologist Karin Bradley has found that green guilt notwithstanding, it is greener to to be poorer and live in a poor neighborhood than to be rich and acting green. Often, Bradley found that lower-income families were living greener than their more well-off neighbors, even though they may NOT have been sorting their recycling, or shopping organically. Oh, no, say it isn't so. Are our personal efforts for naught?The "sucker effect"
Not exactly. Bradley's first finding is that low-income neighborhoods that might look trashier aren't. What makes the most difference, of course, is the size of the dwellings, whether they are apartments or single-family homes, and the amount of trips the families can afford to take and the various types of consumption that they practice. Unfortunately, this leads to the "sucker effect" where some Swedes that think they are deep green - martyrs to their green habits - are really no better than those that are unaware or just don't care.

Politics needs to deepen its green, and soon
What Bradley and other Swedes are saying is that the personal responsibility portion of earth-saving is important, and green values are absolutely critical, but if we don't get our politicians in on the act, the efforts we make are ineffectual. Bradley found that consensus-driven Swedes, though they take for granted certain green values, aren't actively checking what are the environmentally acute problems, who is being affected by them, and how they might be solved. Bradley found the British much more critical of green window-dressing and the need for politics to address bigger questions. Simon Mattis, a sociologist, told Swedish Radio that politicians have been too cautious, not believing that people are ready to make sacrifices and not willing to sacrifice their own popularity. The short-term perspective has driven political decision making. The solution? Don't get guilty, get active...politically so. Via: Swedish Radio (Swedish only)

Read more about green guilt
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Eco-Guilt the New Plague Among Enlightened Parents
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