A Lifestyle for Long-Term Sustainability

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Question: How can we\r\nincentivize people to move toward a sustainable lifestyle?

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Ernst Weizsäcker: I think a very important part of answering this question is, think\r\nlong-term.  Think of your children,\r\nthink of your grandchildren. And don’t be content with just the quarterly\r\nreports, the returns on investment in very short periods of time.  This is not sustainable.  I mean, if I were a forest owner and\r\nwanted to maximize my next quarterly report, I would cut all the forest and the\r\ntrees would be gone, and the next quarter would be a disaster.  And so would be the next 50 years.  So, the philosophy, the doctrine of the\r\nquarterly reports can be very damaging. 

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And returning to the\r\nquestion of what makes people move. \r\nIt’s not only the profit thinking, it also a mentality of thinking we\r\nwant to have an elegant kind of life, not a wasteful, squandering kind of\r\nlife.  It’s also into the\r\naesthetics, what do we find beautiful. \r\nSo, I believe it is a mixture of responsibility, good rules, and\r\ncultural understanding into a sustainable society.

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Question: What will\r\npeople need to give up? 

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Ernst Weizsäcker: There is indeed quite a difference between just ownership and use of\r\nthe goods I own, and services.  For\r\ninstances, my family is part of a car-sharing arrangement.  Whenever we need a car, we get it at\r\nthe relatively low price and we don’t have the permanent costs for the\r\ncar.  But we always have access to\r\ncar-like mobility.  But if... for\r\ninstance, my daughter’s family, they own any car and they use cars only when\r\nthey really need it. And otherwise use bicycles and walking and, I don’t know\r\nwhat.  Telephones.  But then we are living in a privileged\r\nsmall town of 25,000 inhabitants in Germany, so there it’s easier.  But even in New York with public\r\ntransport, you can do a lot of things without a car, but with the possibility\r\nof having access to a car.  That, I\r\nbelieve is one example.   

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The same holds in a sense for big\r\ncopying machines, which typically are leased, not bought.  That’s fine.  And I can imagine this principle going further.  For instance, I could imagine that\r\naluminum will not be sold any longer in the future, but leased and returned\r\nafter use.  So, for instance, the\r\nairplane manufacturers could rent the aluminum they need and when the lifetime\r\nof the airplane is over, it will be returned.  And then, of course, they all have a strong interest in\r\ndoing the optimal mix alloys of the metal so that the reuse is without any\r\nproblem.  So, access to aluminum is\r\na very good thing, but this does not automatically mean ownership.  Why do I need to own aluminum?

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Recorded on April 9, 2010 

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We don't need to surrender anything that would drastically alter our way of life, but we need to think of our grandchildren.

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