A contemporary example
Allow me now to refer to a personal
experience in modern times.
I think that a concrete example often
says a lot more than a lengthy analysis.
Several years ago I worked for some time at an
institute in a small university town in Germany.
Every morning I went to work in the car
which I had brought from Greece, and was always
very happy to be able to park in the yard, because
there were only a few cars (of employees who lived
several miles away, as I learned later).
Bicycles were in abundance, but they take up very little space.
After a few days, one of the new friends I had
made there, approached me and said:
can understand that you couldn't bring your bike from Greece,
and for the short time you stay here it isn't worth buying another one.
We have our son's bike in the basement; he lives in another city now.
You can have it, if you want it".
What had happened?
In the small town society, and especially in the
there was the understanding that to protect the environment you
shouldn't use your car if you could avoid it.
It was unacceptable to
come to work by car.
That's why students and professors, young and old,
from the cleaners
to the directors, they all came every day by bike, even in winter in snow
and ice at temperatures far below freezing point.
From that shame my
friend tried to save me.
And one more thing.
On the German motorways there is no general speed limit.
If your car can do 200 km/h (and most cars can) or
250 km/h, no policeman will stop you.
But if you want to be accepted in this small
circle of the Institute
people, then it is not done to drive over 120 km/h, because the
CO2 emissions are much higher
And most institute people
(and those who want to copy them)
obey this unwritten law.
Such is the power of public opinion among people
who know one another, and this power could support
the weak individual in reducing his extravagance.
And I don't think that they need to be academics to do this.
They could just as well be beekeepers, or
tailors, or "Fans of Manchester United".
Any group where people know each other has its
moral rules which the members keep faithfully.
Before finishing this chapter, I think it right to
of something that has to do with self-restraint and shame.
Some time ago, the nations of the world signed the
"Kyoto Protocol", whereby committing themselves
to reduce the emissions of "greenhouse gases"
(mostly CO2) by a certain amount at a certain time.
All the nations signed, except one.
The U.S. refused to sign. The U.S., which is by
They haven't signed and they aren't ashamed of it.
"I am ashamed to be an American"
a friend told me.
I hear that recently the U.S. government is concerned by the fact that
more and more Americans are
ashamed for the same reason.