Car Free Cities

IMAGINE for a moment a city free from the noise, air pollution, congestion and danger associated with cars and lorries.

Imagine a safer and cleaner urban environment where more people walk, cycle, and use public transport and interact on the streets. Imagine a city where children can enjoy the independence and freedom of travelling to school and visiting friends. Imagine every major city in the country being car free..

For many the idea of a car free city may seem like an impossible dream. Yet this week academics, city planners and campaigners from all over the world will descend on the city of York (UK) to participate in the ninth World Car Free City Conference. This global gathering aims to develop practical alternatives to car-dependent lifestyles and car-dominated cities. In York participants will discuss cutting-edge and radical thinking in transport policy that show that the development of car free cities is a possible reality which offers numerous social and health benefits.

There is no doubt we are a car dependent nation. We have developed and adapted our cities to cater for increased car use rather than for the freedom and safety of pedestrians and children. Today about 70 per cent of households in Britain own a car compared to just 50 per cent in 1970. The car has become an essential feature of our modern urban way of life. We use it to get to work, to go shopping, to transport our kids to school, to visit friends and have day trips out. It offers freedom, mobility, independence, status, and for some, sexual expression. It is often cheaper and more convenient than public transport.

It has even been suggested that the type and colour of the car says more about someone’s personality than the clothes they wear or the house they live in. A RAC survey found that owners of pastel-colour cars are eight times more likely to suffer from depression than people with bright coloured cars, while drivers of white cars are distant and aloof. Owners of silver or metallic blue cars are the happiest drivers on the road, while owners of cars in the pastel colours of lilac and lime are twice as likely to be the victims of road rage.

A recent government survey of public attitudes to the car and the environment found that three-quarters of adults said that they were likely to undertake some form of activity to reduce car trips due to concerns about climate change. These activities included walking short journeys or reducing the number of non-essential trips. Yet while we may be open to the idea of curbing our car use we do not always put this into action.

Back in 2004 the City of York participated in a Government pilot project which aimed to change travel behaviour, increase regular exercise and cut congestion by designing individual travel plans for participants and offering them a range of incentives. The York Intelligent Travel project contacted nearly 6,000 households of which over 240 took part in the project from different areas of the city. Results of the twelve month trial were successful in reducing the distance travelled by car and increasing the distance and number of trips by bicycle and public transport. Although the project was initially successful in reducing car use, a follow-up study a year later discovered that this behaviour was not sustained. Participants had reverted back to their old travel behaviour demonstrating the challenge in persuading people to make long-term lifestyles changes.

Despite this challenge, Venice (Italy), Fes (Morocco) and Slateford Green in Edinburgh have managed to gain car free status. The largest car free development in Europe is in Freiburg (Germany). Residents in the suburb of Vauban have to sign an annual declaration stating whether they own a car or not. Car owners must purchase a place in one of the multi-storey car parks on the periphery, run by a council-owned company and pay a monthly fee to cover ongoing costs. Vauban has become a traffic-free residential area where the streets are often full of unsupervised young children, playing and cycling.

In the UK many cities continue to struggle to cope with the social and environmental burden of increasing traffic. If we want to enjoy the better quality of life that car free cities offer, we need to reclaim the public pedestrian space that has been slowly given up to the car. Equally, if we need make public transport cheaper, efficient and reliable and walking and cycling safer and pleasurable.

A car free city is not an impossible dream; the challenge is not technical but political. We need our civic leaders to have the vision and passion to create cities for people, where road infrastructure is limited, and where car use is restricted, and where getting around is easy, cheap and enjoyable for everyone.

© Gary Haq 2010

Green Carrots and Sticks: How should we encourage greener lifestyles?

HE new UK coalition government has scrapped plans for a “pay as you throw” bin tax and instead wants to reward families who recycle rubbish. But are such incentives the best way of encouraging greener behaviour?

THE new UK coalition government has scrapped plans for a “pay as you throw” bin tax and instead wants to reward families who recycle rubbish. But are such incentives the best way of encouraging greener behaviour?

As a child growing up in the 1970s I remember returning empty soft drink bottles to our local shop and receiving tuppence for doing so. The financial reward was an incentive to recycle and ensured that empty glass bottles were never thrown away. Britain abandoned such simple bottle deposit scheme a long time ago. Yet in Germany, the Netherlands and some other European countries deposit systems are still used for beer bottles and drink containers. People who recycle bottles are rewarded with a deposit via automated machines at supermarkets.

It seems that rewarding people for greener behaviour via financial incentives is an approach that has been tried and tested but one which needs to be exploited further in the UK. Tax incentives for buying greener cars and installing renewable energy technologies currently exist. However, many of UK government campaigns (e.g. Act on CO2) have encouraged people to voluntarily change their behaviour by raising awareness of their environmental impact. This has been done by assisting individuals to calculate their carbon footprint and show aspects of their lifestyle where reductions can be achieved.

Of course saving energy in the home not only reduces carbon emissions but also reducing energy bills. Indirectly this argument has been used to encourage people to take action to lower their carbon footprint. However, unlike returning recycled bottles, the financial reward is gained over time rather than immediately.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that an approach based on saving public money, and giving the public greater control over energy bills and independence from suppliers would be more effective to engage people in adopting a low carbon lifestyle.

The report suggests that a reduction in carbons emission requires convincing consumers that in adopting lower-carbon lifestyles they can save money and have control in a chaotic world, and they can do the right thing and look good without being an environmentalist.

Households who have installed micro-generation technologies such wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal pumps only receive a return on their investment over years rather than months. The idea of a feed-in tariff (FIT) is designed to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources.

In April 2010 the UK introduced the FIT programme which pays homeowners and businesses who generate their own electricity through the use of accredited low-carbon technologies. For example, Individuals who generate their own electricity using solar technology can receive 41.3p for every unit of electricity generated. They have the option to use the electricity they produce or feed it back into the national grid.

It is estimated that an average household could generate an income of up to £960 a year through the use of solar panels. However, some critics have argued that FITs are a “scam” because they are an expensive, grossly inefficient way to reduce emissions.

Green Sticks such as the London congestion charge has been used to successfully reduced car use in inner London. The air passenger duty is another example of a green stick which has been used to increase the cost of air travel and discourage passengers to fly.

While rewarding people for recycling can play a key role in reducing amount of household waste going to landfill, charging households for generating waste in the first place is equally as important if we are to tackle our throw-away culture. A report by Green Alliance on measures to discourage environmentally damaging behaviour suggests adding an “inefficiency charge”s on products such as disposable batteries and cameras, garden sprinklers and incandescent light bulbs. Prominent messages about the reason for the charge would be displayed on the products targeted.

A common complaint of many people who wish to lead a greener lifestyle is that many greener options are either more expensive (e.g. public transport) or the infrastructure is not available to support the action (e.g. recycling collections, bicycle lanes, public transport connections). Equally, information on green actions (e.g. installation of renewable technologies) is not always clear or the return on the investment is too long (e.g. investment in solar panels) in the absence of installation grants. Due to many people leading busy lives they do not have the time or inclination to explore the options or benefits of greener living.

If we are to encourage greener lifestyles a combination of green carrots and sticks need to be used. It is clear for the majority of people the biggest incentive to changing their behaviour is the impact it will have on the money in their pocket.

A greener lifestyle has to be an easier, convenient and cheaper option for everyone if we are to encourage more people to think about their impact on the planet.

© Gary Haq 2010

Greening of Community Spirit

IT has become fashionable nowadays in the UK to talk about our broken society, our broken economy and our broken politics. Community and family breakdown, welfare dependency, failing schools and rising crime have all become synonymous with a broken Britain.

IT has become fashionable nowadays in the UK to talk about our broken society, our broken economy and our broken politics. Community and family breakdown, welfare dependency, failing schools and rising crime have all become synonymous with a broken Britain.

With such a negative assessment of Britain, you would be forgiven for thinking that “community spirit” was a ghost of a bygone age.

It is true that our communities have changed. Gone are the days when we could leave our homes unlocked, when we knew most of our neighbours and when children could play safely on the street without fear of being run-over by a car. And gone is the time when the spirit of the Blitz helped us to cope with the massive bombing raids on our neighbourhoods during the Second World War.

Communities often experience their finest hour when confronted by extreme hardship. In November last year, community spirit prevailed in flood-hit Cumbria when the worst rainfall ever recorded in Britain devastated the town of Workington. Residents helped out by delivering hot drinks and refreshments to the local church for their neighbours who had been forced from their homes by flood water.

In recent times, a new “green community spirit” has been gaining momentum. In 2009, the villagers of Newton-le-Willows, near Bedale in North Yorkshire, were rewarded for their strong sense of community in promoting green living in their village, which included organising a green festival and car-free day. Newton-le-Willows won the title of the nation’s village of the year.

Local communities are beginning to wake up to the threat of climate change and peak oil – the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum is reached. A recent report funded by Virgin boss Richard Branson and other British business leaders warned that peak oil will result in oil shortages, insecurity of supply and price volatility. This will destabilise economic, political and social activity within the next five years. The “oil crunch” is expected to hit the poorest sectors of society as the price for travel, food, heating and consumer goods rises.

A grassroot response to climate change and peak oil has been the “transition towns” movement. There are currently 278 transition towns and cities spanning 12 countries, and all working to raise awareness of green living and to become better equipped to deal with the implications of a changing climate, energy shortages and a possible collapse in the global economy.

Local groups develop practical projects such as community-supported agriculture, car clubs, local currencies, neighbourhood carbon reduction clubs, urban orchards and re-skilling classes. Together they are preparing to reduce their energy use and become more self-reliant.

In Todmorden (Yorkshire, UK), there is a community campaign to grow local food. The Incredible Edible initiative involves businesses, schools, farmers and the local community who come together to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten in the town. What began as herb gardens has now evolved in planting vegetables and trees around the town including two orchards. Public flowerbeds have been transformed into community herb and vegetable patches.

In York (Yorkshire, UK), six community groups have come together to take the York Green Streets Challenge. They have all pledged to reduce their joint carbon footprint by 10 per cent in 2010. The groups include three neighbourhood teams, two primary school teams and a church team. Members of the team meet each month to discuss what particular action they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint and to share experiences and information. One team has event started to grow their own vegetables on a shared allotment.

Emma, a member of a green street neighbourhood team, says the initiative has had “a wonderful effect on neighbourliness, bringing together people from both sides of the busy road. After 20 years living here, I suddenly know more neighbours than ever before. We all have a lot more people to nod to on the street“.

These local environmental initiatives demonstrate that community spirit is alive and well. People are taking power in their own hands to make a difference by acting locally and thinking globally. Community action will become even more prominent in the future as we are forced to adapt to changes both in our climate and energy supply.

The notion that Britain is broken assumes it was once complete and intact. British history is scattered with a litany of socio-economic problems that needed to be resolved, and 21st century Britain is no exception. Despite Britain´s problems, there are other countries in a worse situation.

So let us focus on what binds a nation together rather than
what divides it. Let us celebrate the fact that throughout local communities there is, and always has been, an inherent willingness to support each other when the going gets tough.

© Gary Haq 2010
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Naturally Unhappy Consumers

WE are all naturally born consumers. We consume to stay alive, to develop and to participate in community life. Yet today our level of consumption not only makes us unhappy but threatens our future existence.

WE are all naturally born consumers. We consume to stay alive, to develop and to participate in community life. Yet today our level of consumption not only makes us unhappy but threatens our future existence.

Early hunter gathers consumed to meet basic needs such as food, water, shelter and warmth. In contrast, modern day homo spaiens consume to meet specific desires.

Throughout history material objects have been used to demonstrate wealth and identity. Ancient Egyptians exhibited the wealth of their occupants in tombs.

Our joy of overconsumption can be traced back to Roman times, when substances called emetics were used to induce vomiting during banquets to be able to continue eating – a form of early social bulimia.

Consumerism has its origins in Europe. Early Enlightenment thinkers adopted the Puritan idea that everyday life was invaluable in itself and that God was to be honoured through work as much as prayer. They were committed to progress, human rights, liberty, equality, rational individual utilitarian view of nature. This way of thinking contributed to the industrial revolution and the increase in productivity.

In constrast, the Romantics emphasised aesthetic appreciation, emotional individualism, personal creativity and self-expression. While the instrumental worldview of the early Enlightenment (16-17th Century), the Romantic (18th to 19th Century) idea of an emotional, interior, expressive human beings became a main driver of consumption.

The consumption of goods became an important form of cultural appreciation and a means of self-expression. Emotions, desires and wants were given a new validity. It became respectable to succumb to both desire for, and enjoyment of, material goods. It can be argued that the birth of consumerism was the result of Enlightenment science and the Romantic view of the individual.

Economist, Thorstein Veblen, coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to explain why people seek status and consume material goods such as expensive jewellery, designer clothes and luxury cars that set themselves apart from others.

This is in contrast to consumption that derives its value from the intrinsic worth of a good. Material goods have become important in social comparison and positioning.

Consumer behaviour has been seen as being partly conditioned by sexual and social competition resulting in display and status-seeking behaviour. We tend to gauge our well-being in relative terms. Evidence suggests that indivduals feel worse off when other in their neighbourhood earm more. We need to consistently consumer to “keep-up wit the Jones'”.This is behaviour is seen as being pathological.

According to Professors Curtis Eaton and Mukesh Eswaran greater affluence can seriously damage a nation’s health – while we get richer we do not become happier.

Once a country reaches a reasonable standard of living there is little further benefit to be had from increasing the wealth of its population. Their work demonstrates that as a nation becomes wealthier, consumption moves increasingly to buying status symbols with no intrinsic value.

Eaton and Eswaran write:
Those with above-average wealth consume Veblen goods with a positive impact on their happiness. But those with below-average wealth simply cannot afford these goods, so they have a negative impact on their happiness. This is known as ‘Veblen competition’. As average wealth rises, people grow richer but not happier.

Their research helps to explain why levels of happiness and feelings of community in affluent countries have stabilised despite growth in real incomes. For example, despite spectular growth in income in post-war Japan there has been no change in average happiness.

As we own more status symbols we seem to have less time or inclination to help others which damages community and trust. This is essential for the economy and society.

Eaton and Eswaran conclude that our emphasis on economic growth is therefore misplaced. Conspicuous consumption can have an impact not only on people’s well-being and the growth prospects of the economy but also on the planet.

Our overconsumption of the world’s resources is being driven by an insatiable apetitie to consume more and more in the misconception that being richer, and distinguishing ourselves from others, will make us happier.

Only when we tackle this inherent need to consumer and reconnect with nature can we achieve a greener, fairer and happier future for all.


Jackson, T. (2006) Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption, Earthscan, London.

© Gary Haq 2010
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Ecotherapy – Healing the Natural Way

OUR disconnection from nature is having a profound affect on our physical and mental well-being. Can Ecotherapy enable us reconnect with nature and find happiness?

OUR disconnection from nature is having a profound affect on our physical and mental well-being. Can ecotherapy enable us to reconnect with nature and find happiness?

As a species we are intimately connected with, embedded in, and inseparable from nature. We have an innate emotional and physical dependency on our natural environment. With our “ecological unconscious” considered to be the foundation of our sanity.

As we have developed into an industrial and globalised society we have increasingly replaced nature and all things natural with artificial man-made creations. There is increasing to evidence suggest that this is having a negative impact on our overall mental health and well-being. Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide. The World Health Organization predicts depression will be the second greatest cause of ill health globally by 2020.

In the UK depression affects one in 10 people each year, with more than half of those experiencing more than one episode. According to official statistics, the percentage of people with a “common mental disorder” increased from 15.5% in 1993 to 17.6% in 2007. This is about an additional million extra unhappy people.

In 2008 in England there were 2.1 million more prescriptions of antidepressants than in 2007, leading to concerns that doctors are increasingly supplying the drugs as a “quick fix” without attempting to address the underlying cause of the problems. In total, 36 million prescriptions were given out, an increase of 24% over the past five years.

A survey by The Mental Health Foundation shows that three quarters of UK family doctors have prescribed anti-depressants even though they think another treatment would have been more effective. The Foundation advocates mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) which halves the risk of further bouts of depression.

The use of anti-depressants such as Prozac or sessions of cognitive therapy are increasingly seen as failing to deal with the root cause of many mental health problems – our dysfuctional and unnatural way of life. Ecotherapy has been developed to respond to this problem.

Ecotherapy can be defined as healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. It is considered to be a form of applied Ecopsychology. Ecotherapists address common difficulties such as anxiety, depression and stress using nature-based methods to enhance physical and mental healing.

Ecotherapeutic methods include reconnecting with nature and ones own body, working with plants and animals, voluntary simplicity, detaching from rigid artificial time schedules, changing home and working environments, dream therapy focusing on nature and wilderness retreats.

A book published by the Sierra Club entitled Ecotherapy – Healing with Nature in Mind edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist examines the background, methods and practices of ecotherapy. It covers the practice form working from both inside and outside, using community as ecotherapy as well as ecospirituality. The book is a companion to the earlier Sierra Club publication on Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind edited by Theordore Roszak et al. Both books provide a valuable introduction to the theory of ecopsychology and the practice of ecotherapy.

The belief that the natural environment is good for our mental and physical well-being is not new. Many medical professions including Florence Nightingale encouraged people to go the country to convalesce. The natural environment is seen as being beneficial – a “restorative environment” – which enhances mental energies and reduces stress. Research has show that prisoners whose cells overlooked farmland and trees had 24 per cent fewer sick visits than those in cells facing the prison yard. A ten-year comparative study of post-operative patients found hospital stay for patients with tree views was significantly shorter, they required fewer painkillers, used less medication, and nursing staff reported fewer negative evaluation comments in the medical record.

A study by the mental health charity, Mind, found that 90 per cent of people who took part in Mind green exercise activities said that the combination of nature and exercise is most important in determining how they feel. A total of 71 per cent of respondents reported decreased levels of depression following a green walk compared to increased feelings of depression following an indoor shopping centre walk which was experienced by 22 per cent of respondents while 33 per cent of people expressed no change in their level of depression.

In our Western, industrialised and individualistic culture we often see ourselves separate and distinct from the natural world around us. If we are to address the cause of the current environmental crisis and the impact it is having on our physical and mental well-being then we need to develop a sense of connectedness with nature.

Ecotherapy provides the natural way to healing mind and will help us rediscover our ecological roots. That is why the recommendations in Mind’s Green Agenda for Mental Health calling for ecotherapy to be become a clinically valid treatment option for mental distress should be adopted before it is too late.

© Gary Haq 2010
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Selling a Greener Future

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are often perceived as spoiling the fun by reminding people of the ecological consequences of their actions and asking them to make “sacrifices” for the common good. If we are to make significant progress towards a low-carbon future and prevent irreparable damage to the climate system, then both the public and politicians needs to be inspired by the idea of a greener future.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are often perceived as spoilsports by reminding people of the ecological consequences of their actions and asking them to make “sacrifices” for the common good.

If we are to make significant progress towards a low-carbon future and prevent irreparable damage to the climate system, then both the public and politicians needs to be inspired by the idea of a future which is greener, richer and happier for all.

The transport sector is massively dependent on oil and is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases. It accounts for about 24 per cent of the UK’s domestic carbon dioxide emissions, the majority of which come from road transport.

Depleting global oil reserves, together with increasing transport emissions, will require us to radically rethink how we travel in the future especially if we have any hope of achieving the government’s target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

So what will life be like in a low-carbon future? Sit back, close your eyes and imagine a greener future.

In 2050, the railway system will be completely powered by electricity provided by non-fossil fuel sources such as wind and biomass. Better and more compact spatial planning will have reduced the distances to travel to work, school and other local facilities.

The high cost of fuel will have encouraged us to walk, cycle and use public transport more as this will be cheapest way to get around. Gas guzzling enthusiasts such as Jeremy Clarkson will be driving electric cars or vehicles powered by fuel cells.

High-speed rail and video conferencing will be a common feature of our greener world. Improvements in aircraft technology and air traffic management will have reduced aviation emissions.

However, air travel will be expensive. Long-haul holidays will be an occasional luxury rather than an annual event and staycations will be the norm. Flying to European capitals to hold hen and stag-dos will be replaced by “Party Trains” as there will be more accessible improved train services with overnight trains.

Travelling to a destination will be just as much part of the holiday experience as time spent at the holiday resort itself.

Changes in ship size, routing, fuel, speed and application of new technologies will have decreased emissions from shipping.

In this greener future, we will have made significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will have averted runaway climate change.

While this vision of a low-carbon future may feel like an infringement of personal liberty, it does offer a number of socio-economic and environmental benefits. Imagine for a second that traffic congestion is a thing of the past.

The time saved not being stuck in traffic jams is spent enjoying the company of family and friends. Imagine a clean, efficient and cheap public transport system comparable to that in any other European city. And imagine opting to be car-free and being better off due to having saved thousands of pounds a year by avoiding the cost of running a car.

Our greener future will be a happier and richer future. There will be a community renaissance with people spending time and money locally due to more people walking, cycling and using public transport.

Lower levels of motorised traffic on our streets travelling at a maximum of 20mph in all residential areas will make them safer.

Children will be able to discover the delights of independent mobility and going to and from school, friends and local clubs on their own.

Older people will find it easier to cross roads, chit-chat on the street and engage with friends and neighbours, thus reducing social isolation.

The long work commute will be distant memory as all kinds of businesses will have introduced flexible working, video conferencing, and more family- and child-friendly working practices.

There will be local area offices using digital technology which will provide the link to businesses, customers and workers at home.

Less vehicle traffic will mean cleaner air as well as reduced noise and stress. This together with high levels of physical activity will have lowered rates of obesity and heart disease and improved our overall general health and sense of wellbeing.

All these factors will have contributed to the creation of high quality living environments where community life will be much improved. This vision of a low-carbon future is not a green pipe dream but a possible reality. There are no technical, financial, organisational or other obstacles in our way. Many of the building blocks to create our alternative future already exist.

The future of our climate and our way of life will be dependent on the choices we are willing to make today. A vision of a greener future needs to be communicated and sold as positive and aspirational goal for all. Once we have sold the concept then we will need to move boldly and decisively to achieve this vision for ourselves and future generations.

© Gary Haq 2009

The Power of Carbon Abstinence

THE 10:10 campaign is asking us to reduce our CO2 emissions by 10 per cent in 2010. Can voluntary carbon abstinence make a difference?

airline-carbon-footprintTHE 10:10 campaign is asking us to reduce our CO2 emissions by 10 per cent in 2010. Can voluntary carbon abstinence make a difference?

For the last couple of years it has become fashionable to do one’s bit to tackle climate change. Individuals have voluntarily decided to abstain from certain activities such as flying, using the car or eating meat in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

In September 2009 the 10:10 campaign was launched as an ambitious project to unite every sector of British society behind the simple idea: that by working together as a nation we can achieve a 10% cut in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2010.

The motivation for the campaign was that politicians have so far failed to do what needs to be done. The campaign believes it is time for ordinary people to show that they are ready to defend our children’s futures.

The 10:10 campaign follows similar campaigns to reduce personal carbon emissions such as Earth Hour, Act on CO2 and Stop Climate Chaos. It builds upon a recent history of collective action and awareness raising such has the 1985 Live Aid concert, 2005 Make Poverty History campaign and more recently the 2007 Live Earth event.

These events create a critical mass of public support and awareness. People join in herds to be part of something that is big and trendy and often backed by key celebrities.

There is no doubt that such big events create a tsunami of awareness that galvanises the public to take action. However, once the razzmatazz is over and the publicity has faded away does such events leave any lasting impression? More importantly will the change in behaviour or pledged action such as carbon abstinence continue?Logo-for-1010-campaign-001

There is a public willingness to be greener, individuals are often waiting for an enabling and supportive structural framework to collectively facilitate desired behaviour. They often look to others such as the government and business to take the lead, i.e. the notion of “I will if you will”.

While regulation and enforcement are key elements in reducing carbon emissions, they have yet to deliver the fundamental shift required in our level of consumption. Structural and psychological issues can limit and influence our lifestyle choices and behaviour.

Voluntary carbon abstinence can be effective approach to achieving sustained greener beahviour. However, the messsage has to be communicatd in the right way and a supportive institutional/ social, infrastructural and fiscal framework needs to be available.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests that an approach based on saving public money, and giving the public greater control over energy bills and independence from suppliers would be more effective to engage people in adopting a low carbon lifestyle.

The report suggests that a reduction in carbons emission requires convincing consumers that in adopting lower-carbon lifestyles they can save money and have control in a chaotic world, and they can do the right thing and look good without being an environmentalist.

carbon-footprint-leavesIndividuals who participate in voluntary initiatives are acting as environmental citizens and voluntarily internalise externalities of their current lifestyle for the sake of the common good, i.e. averting the global climate crisis.

Reducing our carbon footprint requires moving from environmental awareness and concerns to collective action. Voluntary carbon abstinence is one way of empowering, educating and achieving attitudinal change in individuals.

Campaigns such as 10:10 provide the vehicle to do this. However, maintaining the mometum once the campaign is over is essential. This requires campaigning groups to keep the issue alive in the public consciousness.

Morely importantly, it will require government and business to provide the incentives and infrastructure to make a low carbon lifestyle the easy, affordable and enjoyable and natural option for everyone.

© Gary Haq 2009