Imagining a shared Future

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2012
7 Pages, Grade: A


Why more is less but sharing the best

While today’s society is without a doubt the most prosperous and interactive we have ever seen, it has some major flaws. The most significant and visible one is the footprint that many cultures leave on the planet – a planet that is shared by all human beings. In what Garrett Hardin (1968) described as the “tragedy of the commons”, human beings show a distinctive tendency to overuse, if not exploit, natural resources in order to satisfy short term self interest rather than acting in sustainable long term common interest of the world.

Consumption patterns are becoming excessively irresponsible and the waste that is left behind is measurably dramatically increasing. Since these excesses are caused by human behavior, they can all be reversed by changes in human behavior. In order to meet this urgency, people will have to face the challenge of re-imagining their consumption ideals and their attitude towards shared consumption, which if applied to reality will not only benefit the planet but the individual, too.

Humans’ consumption and their acquiring of resources is not a negative force at all. It is part of what makes our lives desirable, diversified and vital. In fact, Economists have known for centuries that the introduction of Property Rights and an intact law system that protects people’s possession of goods is a leading force of economic growth and the incentive for people to work and innovate (Hubbard & O’Brien, 2006). This means that the idea of possessing and acquiring goods is part of what has improved human society as it fueled entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. It would not only be irresponsible but also impossible to ask people to cut down their acquisition of property or possessions because it would directly mean a diminishment of their standard of living and quality of life. As a result we have to find a way to satisfy our consumption desires while at the same time reducing the production of exactly those good. A most promising application is to get people comfortable with the idea of not literally possessing and item anymore if accessing it whenever needed is just as satisfying. However, this may collide with our deep-seated value system.

An object that many people, including myself, associate with standard of living and prosperity is the car. At the same time, cars may well be the incarnation of humans’ effect on environmental degradation. In 1994, the last year the government conducted a national survey, residential vehicles in the US traveled 1.8 billion miles—enough to get to the moon and back more than 3,700 times (“Vehicle Miles Traveled”, 2002). While fuel consumption and emissions are likely the biggest environmental issues plaguing our vehicular habits, they are not the only ones. Every year, end of life vehicles generate between 8 and 9 million tons of waste in the European Union and about 5 million tons in the United States (EC-Environment, 2012).

The issue is clear: Consumption and fluctuation of cars in the western world is extensively high. In response, there is an urgency to actively create ways to reduce the amount of cars necessary while at the same time to leave the quality of peoples live undiminished. People in developed societies share the believe that the use of cars is indispensable, which may certainly be true since many places do not have effective public transportation infrastructure or elsewise distances are too far. Asking people to imagine a life without a car has at this point no prospect of success, the idea that we need a car is too deep-seated in our minds.

However, having a car is not identical to possessing a car. A Guardian article from January 2011 revealed that the average car owner’s vehicle sits idle for a mere 23 hours of the day. This means that the car is a people’s biggest asset of idling capacity. A profound idea to reduce the amount of cars and therefore our excessive waste production is to re-imagine the idea of literally owning a car and instead to approach dynamic forms of shared responsible possession. Relatively recently car sharing concepts such as “Zipcar” have paved their way into the list of possible solutions. Car sharing contradicts the established norm of car ownership and the perception of a car as a status symbol. Instead, a central logistic company manages a wide variety of cars. People can obtain a membership with these companies, locate the nearest or most desirable car when they need it and access it for little money; insurance and gas included (Zipcar, 2012). When the journey is completed, people may simply park the car wherever it is most convenient for them and the next customer closest to it locates it using information technology and can then use it. However, the range of advantages adhered with car-sharing schemes provide a variety of incentives that widely exceed easiness but that the broad population seems not to be able to grasp just yet.


Excerpt out of 7 pages


Imagining a shared Future
University of California, Santa Barbara
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
432 KB
This paper discusses the potential of car-sharing solutions such as zimride.
zimride, sustainability, tragedy of the commons, carsharing, consumption
Quote paper
Nanuk Rennert (Author), 2012, Imagining a shared Future, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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