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Ethics, Place and Environment 13 (1):11 – 14 (2010)
Abstract
Chrisoula Andreou's “No Avail Thesis” states that many environmentally-harmful conveniences and luxuries do not significantly contribute to human happiness, making the costs they incur largely a waste. The first half of this short paper affirms the ethical importance of this thesis, with special reference to global climate change. Growing evidence suggests that implementing efficiency measures will not be sufficient to allow humanity to avoid catastrophic climate change and that such measures will have to be supplemented by reductions in consumption itself. Convincing people that they can reduce consumption without harming their wellbeing could open up the political space needed to successfully mitigate climate change. The second half of the paper explores the implications of Andreou's “shallow” route to accepting the “No Avails Thesis,” grounded in empirical research that suggests people's sense of material wellbeing is largely set through interpersonal comparisons. Psychological evidence for this shallowness does seem to provide reasons for a wider range of ethical theorists to consider the “No Avails Thesis,” beyond its usual advocates among ethical perfectionists. However, from a practical perspective, this human shallowness stands as an impediment to effective political action on climate change. So philosophers concerned to convince a wider public of the “No Avails Thesis” may find themselves advocating perfectionist methods designed to help individuals question conventional ideals of material wellbeing. One way or another, effective action to avert catastrophic climate change probably depends on cultivating more adult views of the proper role of consumption in a good human life
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