Thursday, December 02, 2010

Better than Cost-Effective

Environmentalist point out that there are many cost-effective solutions to climate change. For example, many energy conservation measures pay for themselves in energy savings and give you a good rate of return on the money you invest in them.
We clearly need these cost effective solutions, but we also need to think about solutions that are better than cost effective - solutions that are a matter of not doing things that are environmentally destructive and that make our lives less satisfying. Two prime examples are:
  • Walkable neighborhoods: We can reduce emissions and make our cities more livable by building walkable neighborhoods (including streetcar suburbs) rather than auto-dependent neighborhoods, as many New Urbanists say. Auto-dependent sprawl suburbs are not only environmentally destructive; they also make our lives harder, more expensive, and less satisfying.
  • Choice of work hours: We can reduce emissions and improve our work-life balance by offering employees choice of work hours, as they do in Germany and the Netherlands. Because shorter hours are voluntary, people only choose them if they think their lives will be more satisfying if the work and consume less and instead have more free time. Our standard 40-hour work week is not only environmentally destructive; it also makes our lives harder and less satisfying.
Cost effective solutions involve spending money and getting a good return on your investment. These two solutions are better than cost effective because they give you the environmental benefits by letting you spend less and enjoy life more.