This chapter considers how a cultural shift toward less consumerist lifestyle choices might originate, driven not by moral imperatives or environmental movements, but by the core pursuit of human well-being. The history of consumer society is a reminder that cultural transformation of that magnitude could occur in a relatively short period of time. We hypothesize, drawing on demographic and economic trends, that technologically connected, educated, and open to change millennials might lead the way in that transition. Their diminishing interest in suburban life in favour of cities, constricted economic opportunities, and their size and interconnectedness all point in that direction. We envision a scenario in which the core understanding of well-being will change through the combined effects of changing lifestyles, adaptation to the economic, technological and demographic realities, and emerging new social practices. Extensive research on well-being suggests that such reframing can readily incorporate a shift away from consumerist lifestyles. Government should support this nascent transition through policies that enable young urban families to thrive. They should also identify and foster other emerging cultural changes that result in more sustainable and highly satisfying lifestyles. This chapter is about the United States because it a global leader in the creation of the consumer society, with a per-capita ecological footprint about twice that of Europe, and with many emulators across the world. We contend that the US-grounded analysis presented in this chapter has relevance for other parts of the world, and that it can inform research and debate on similar cultural transitions in other national contexts.
Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt
Halina Szejnwald Brown, Philip J. Vergragt and Maurie J. Cohen
New Economics, Socio-technical Transitions and Social Practices
Edited by Maurie J. Cohen, Halina Szejnwald Brown and Philip J. Vergragt
This timely volume recognizes that traditional policy approaches to reduce human impacts on the environment through technological change – for example, emphasizing resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources – are insufficient to meet the most pressing sustainability challenges of the twenty-first century. Instead, the editors and contributors argue that we must fundamentally reconfigure our lifestyles and social institutions if we are to make the transition toward a truly sustainable future.