Is ‘Green Living’ a Luxury?
Is 'green living' a luxury affordable only to the middle and upper classes?
Posted on 18.04.2018
Is environmentalism a luxury of the latte-sipping rich?
Are working-class people unconcerned with ‘big issues’ like climate change and sustainable energy?
If you read op-ed pages regularly, you’ll be familiar with those questions and the arguments that spring up around them.
When it comes to the environment, battlelines have been drawn between the rich and poor.
Take the Adani debate as an example — one side of the argument is often cast as ‘callous job haters’, the other as ‘reef destroying fat cats’.
There is some statistical evidence of an environmental class divide — studies suggest the people who are most interested in environmental issues are well-educated and left leaning.
It’s also built on assumptions, like the notion that people who are employed in industries built on traditional forms of energy generation and waste management would be against the decommissioning of those practices.
Conversely, you might assume everyone working renewable energy industry is a ‘greenie’.
But it’s not always the case.
We asked two experts — one from Greenpeace and one from policy think tank The Institute of Public Affairs — whether environmentalism is for rich people.
Each gave a very different answer — but both agreed something needs to change, in order for society as whole to tackle the imminent environmental threats facing our world.
Perception vs reality
David Ritter, the chief executive officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, says any perception that working-class Australians are removed from the organised environmental movement is just that: a perception.
“I don’t think there is a divide and I don’t really think there ever has been,” he says.
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