Aid and Development

Question: Is development at odds with environmentalism?

Stephen Walt: I think there’s an obvious tradeoff. We can’t have, you know, seven to eight billion people on the planet all of them living like Americans. So one of the problems we’re going to have to address as a society is how do you convince people in the most advanced societies who are consuming most of the resources to . . . to essentially a diminution I regard as not necessarily a diminution of their lifestyles, but a diminution of their ostentation. Or to put it in really crude terms, how do you get more Americans and Europeans to have a much, much smaller carbon footprint, right? Without thinking that that requires us all to live in tiny homes; that requires us all to ride bicycles to work or things like that; but rather can we be happy about a different lifestyle where maybe the 12,000 foot McMansion is not the American dream, and that we all accept that many more people are going to have to live in some parts of their lives in a much more constrained fashion. I actually regard that as a social and cultural problem that we are, again, just beginning to have to think about. And it’s not one that’s gonna sit well with many Americans. We tend to think, “We’re Americans. We’re entitled to whatever we can afford.”

Recorded on: 10/8/07

One of the problems Walt foresees is how to convince the most advanced societies that are consuming most of the resources to use less.

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