Pretty simple, less money means less buying. Moreover, people will look more closely into the value of a product before purchasing it, because they know their budgets are tighter than they previously were and their jobs are less secure, so its a good time to put off buying those 50 DVDs when you can watch them from Netflix for a whole bunch less, for instance.
Something interesting about the recurrent clashes between economic and environmental interests is the paradoxical way in which green cognizance is both fueled by and then overpowered with the gravity of financial crises. Let’s consider this familiar scenario:
Gas prices rise in response to turmoil in the Middle East. The pressure on our wallets leads us to question our dependency on foreign oil supplies and conclude that domestic energy production initiatives are, in fact, important for future energy independence and price stabilization. When the initial costs of funding such an energy revolution present themselves, however, in the midst of the same recession that enabled the recognition of the energy dilemma in the first place, we fall on our green sword and opt for the cheap, dirty way out.
As David Owen writes in The New Yorker, economic recession highlights the relationship between consumption and prosperity. He points out that in 2008, when oil prices spiked, gasoline consumption in the U.S. fell by nearly 6%. “That was the result not of a sudden greening of the American consciousness but of the rapid rise in the price of oil during the first half of the year, followed by the full efflorescence of the current economic mess.”
So, perhaps an ethical eco-revival isn’t to credit for the conservative consumption that marked 2008, but I believe the effects of fiscal constraints are significant for building public awareness of our fossil-fuel dependency. If we can leverage that awareness effectively, I think there is potential to use the recession to teach responsible consumption.
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