Wednesday, November 19, 2008

luxury or necessity?

There was an article in the paper on Sunday about voluntary simplicity, and one of the sidebars was a list of gadgets and experiences and frivolities, things like "television" or "health club membership" or "strawberries in December," with the newspaper asking the reader how many of these things they would be willing to do without. There was a related poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 1996 and 2006 asking how many things like this people considered luxuries and how many were necessities. In the two surveys, every single item became more of a perceived necessity except one—owning a car. In 1996 93% said that a car was a necessity, and in 2006 it had dropped to 91%.

Both those figures are still depressingly high, but it's encouraging to see that the percentage dropped a little bit, because that means an additional 2% of the population is sick of waging wars for oil and the unhealthy, unsustainable infrastructure that comes with everyone driving cars. There is, perhaps, a small amount of hope.


Circaea said...

It's also possible (but not likely) that those 2% were the result of improvements in public transportation. I am amazed at how often people forget that in order to get riders on public transportation, you have to provide it in the first place. Here in the Boston area, for instance, it is expensive enough that people drive to save money. :(

Sonya said...

That's an excellent point. Here in Minnesota, the gov't higher-ups are talking about putting in a passenger train between Duluth and the Twin Cities. Opponents to it are whining about how it would be a waste of resources because "nobody uses trains any more" or "people don't like public transit." When, of course, it has been shown again and again and again that people will happily use public transit if it is 1.) accessible, 2.) affordable, and 3.) convenient.