One of the things that drives me crazy is the constant statement that we all know that people (or Americans, or first worlders, orwhatever subset of "people" we're talking about today) will never voluntarily change their lifestyles. Usually this is said by someone who has changed their own lifestyle towards greater sustainability and conservation, and is said of the rest of the people out there, who, it is either explicitly claimed or presumed as a functionof the conversation, are simply too stupid and greedy to ever voluntarily change.
But believing that most people won't change their lifestyle implies a theory of exceptionalism - that we who know better are better people, more moral, smarter, wiser, more compassionate, nicer, probably prettier too. We good people who know about peak oil and conservation, we are wise and noble, and the rest of the hoi polloi are disgusting morons, wallowing in their own excess. Well, frankly, I think that's a load of garbage, and a kind of self-aggrandizement, rather than anything useful. Because let's be honest - much as we'd like to believe it, we're no different than anyone else.
Or at least I am - I'm capable of a full range of stupidity, foolishness, selfishness, greed and pettiness. I have lied, cheated and stolen in my lifetime. I have been mean and ugly and cruel and done harm by both action and omission. Now I'm sure some of you have fewer sins than I, but I'm guessing you have your share too. So unless you choose to go with the "I'm noble and everyone else is crap" theory of humanity, then you must believe that regular people are capable of change. Because if *we* did it, so can others. If we changed our lifestyle voluntarily, because we wanted to and thought it was the right thing to do, or the thing that would give us the most happiness and security, other people must be subject to the same kinds of suasion. If we care about ethics more than personal comfort and privelege, so must other people. So why don't they?
Well, to a large degree, the issue is probably lack of comprehension. Virtually everyone on this list had a time when they too lived a normal life, standard to their nation (there are some exceptions, but they are mostly exceptions), class and culture. And they change their minds.
I know hundreds of people personally who have made a dramatic change in the conventional lifestyle and there are many thousands more who are acting, because of peak oil or global warming, or theories of justice or some other reason, from conviction and necessity. Those thousands, are of course, a drop in the bucket - but they are also potentially a beginning, the first step in a long, collective journey of cultural self-transformation. What matters is how we view ourselves, and what we believe we can accomplish. There is no fundamental difference between myself and anyone else, except that I have a little more information.
The issue is one of understanding, persuasion, and cultural pressures. And those are things we can work on. But any account of peak oil that begins with something like the statement "We all know that no one will do X until they have to" has lost me right there - because we don't all know that. Some of us may choose to believe it, because it is easier tobelieve that than to do what they would have to do to help others understand, or because they enjoy feeling exceptional. But it is not the truth, and not a starting point. We cannot begin to transform the world until we acknowledge that we as a people are ripe for transformation, and need only a catalyst to move on.