Don’t give up yet, GM and Ford. SUV’s may make a come back after all. Americans’ memories are very short and there is nothing like $2.00 gas to make them forget the pain of the last several months and let them return to their addictive habits. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson points to a New York Times headline, “Drivers Take to the Road Again as Gas Prices Fall.”
But our addiction to automobiles, a huge source of greenhouse gases, is just part of the problem of unsustainability. As I write in Sustainability by Design, it is a much deeper addiction driven by cultural beliefs and values buried deep in our collective mindset that threatens the globe. Addiction cannot be overcome simply by taking away the drug, gasoline in this case. Unless something else is put in the place of the addictive substance, the old habits will come back sooner or later.
The headline for Jackson’s op-ed piece is, “Curse of the falling gas process.” Sooner or later, the laws of supply and demand will push gas prices back up. When is not certain. Drilling for more can postpone the certainty of higher cost of petroleum only for a short time if at all. In the meantime, our mindset will lull us into complacency and we will forget how precarious our situation really is. The economics of lower prices will remove incentives to find alternate sources as we stop feeling so much pain at the pump.
It takes constant work to cure an addiction. Drying out is painful, but, if successful, can restore health to the body. In this case it is the Planet’s health at stake. Unsustainability is an unintended consequence of our collective addiction to beliefs like: humans are need machines and must consume, not only gasoline, but all sorts of commodified goods to achieve happiness. Think of what might happen if we got off this notion that our well-being equated to what we owned, and found, instead, that what really matters is caring, not needing. The way it works now is that we need the Planet to provide the stuff for all our toys and tools and to receive all the crap we throw away. What might happen if we started to care for this same Planet?

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