Class and sex have a large influence on whether you are a climate friend or climate foe, Swedish studies find
According to an article in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, men are more likely to be enemies of the environment, while women tend to be more climate-friendly – at least in Sweden. Men drive cars and fly more, while women cycle and take trains and buses more often than men. The other big indicator as to whether one is more apt to have a more ‘climate smart’ lifestyle is class, and it may not be in ways you might expect. The guilty party is the middle class.
One thing is clear: the more money you make, the more emissions you cause. It’s all a case of lifestyle: those who can afford more consume more and therefore cause more harm to the environment. These are the findings of research conducted both by the Swedish EPA and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
‘It is those with low income who live in apartments, whose lifestyles are more climate smart because they rarely travel long distances, consume less and eat smaller quantities of meat.’
Ironically, it is the Swedish middle class, who drive cars, live in houses or ‘villas’ – which take a lot of energy to heat – and consume more than their low income compatriots, that are generally more ‘climate conscious’. But the climate friendly activities of the middle class, such as recycling and buying organic groceries, do not make up for their ultra consumer lifestyles, which in cold hard facts, make them ‘climate villains’. In terms of identity, the opposite is true: the wealthier climate villains think they are Green, while the poorer climate friends think they do not ‘live up to the image’ of the good, eco-friendly Swede who recycles and eats organic food.
The discussion around class and climate within developed countries can be compared to the cleavage between poor and rich nations. The rich nations have the most climate measures and do the most talking about climate change and other environmental issues, but also have the largest per capita emissions by far. Unfortunately, it is the super consuming lifestyle of the middle class of the developed world that is also the goal of many living in the developed world. And it is the hallmarks of this lifestyle – meat, cars and houses – which contribute most to an individual’s carbon footprint.
By Graham Land