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wundayatta's avatar

For those who want to reduce the human "footprint" on our planet, is it irresponsible to pursue ever more leisure?

Asked by wundayatta (58586points) February 25th, 2010

Leisure takes up resources, but resources for what? For fun? If you want to reduce your use of resources on the planet, does that mean you should want to find leisure pursuits that do not involve many resources? Or any resources? Or is the whole concept of leisure a waste? Should we be working all the time for the benefit of each other or the benefit of the planet (future generations)?

For those who don’t have a problem with human use of resources, is leisure a good thing? Why or why not? How else should people spend their time?

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8 Answers

noyesa's avatar

People don’t necessarily waste and produce carbon footprint doing leisurely things. It’s pretty well documented that despite the fact that most people on the planet are spending more and consuming more than they ever have in history, we’re no happier. We can be happy without burning fuel.

There is a photo documentary that I saw a while back where a photographer went through China and photographed people and managed to situate them such that in a single photograph, you could encapsulate that person, their entire domicile, and all of their belongings.

Even middle class Americans are moving into cookie cutter plasterboard six-bedroom suburban mini-mansions are are still running out of space to put their things. And they’re still taking prozac by the bottle.

What we should be really focusing is on the amount of waste that happens for, quite literally, no reason. Americans spend ridiculous amounts of time driving—there’s no reason for this. We burn millions of gallons of oil sitting in idle traffic. But many people don’t seem to care.

It’s not that there can’t be leisure. The amount of energy we waste and pollution we create partaking in leisurely activities is puny compared to the amount we produce wastefully, without a second thought.

lilikoi's avatar

What do you mean by “leisure takes up resources”? Without “leisure”, we wouldn’t have scientific advancement. Back in the day when we were hunter-gatherers, and even pre-Industrial Revolution, we didn’t have much free time. We spent it all searching for life’s necessities, not unlike what some people do today in developing countries. Having free time has enabled us to do science (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) – to learn more about how this world works, and to thus better understand it.

In understanding how things work better, we have the technology to live more efficiently. There are still big advancements needed to further refine our technology. I am reading the book Biomimicry which points out several ways in which nature is much more efficient and environmentally friendly – producing energy via photosynthesis is cleaner than anything we have come up with, raw materials production, food production, etc. One of the reasons why we don’t understand much of how nature is able to accomplish these things is because the processes are so complex and hard to figure out, and because people like to fund science with known, profitable outcomes.

Of course some people like to spend their leisure time playing golf. Golf is the epitomy of waste. It takes up large swaths of land, it requires a mono-crop of grass which in turn requires tons of pesticides to maintain, the pesticides leach into the soil and degrade it as well as leach into groundwater to contaminate it. If there is anything that should be banished, it is not marijuana…it is golf.

Leisure doesn’t have to be so wasteful and unproductive. I spend my vacation time doing volunteer work to restore damaged ecosystems. I find relaxation in it and revitalization – all the benefits of leisure time – without having hugely negative impacts on the world.

People are going to consume resources. That’s a fact of life. We need to consume efficiently. This may mean revising our economic system to not incentivize things like planned obsolescence, and improving our understanding of nature so that we can produce resources more cleanly and efficiently with little environmental impact.

Berserker's avatar

Whether it’s good or bad, leisure is a necessity to whatever facets of human survival instinct which have infringed themselves in all societies. Leisure has been around even back when we ate raw human heart and fucked up wild life with stones and spears.

I certainly agree that some of it is a waste, but that may just be personal opinion rather than anything else, when it comes to particular types of entertainment.

Either way it’s taken as much space and resources as anything that’s vital, or more or less anyway. Not saying it’s a hopeless situation for those who believe that we shouldn’t spend so much energy on leisure, but it might be a very hard thing to segment away from what humans are.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t suppose there would be much time left to pursue ecological improvement if you really pursued ever more leisure. But there are certainly ecologically friendly ways to take a bit of time off now and then. It’s hard enough to sell people on the idea of cleaning up our act without telling them that to do it they must labor 24 hours a day.

mattbrowne's avatar

No. There are plenty of low-energy leisure activities. Like reading a book.

Cruiser's avatar

There is so much room for improvement in the choices we all make in our daily lives that would make worrying about leisure carbon footprints essentially a non issue.

evandad's avatar

I think most of us like leisure. If you can kill two birds with one stone, then more power to ya’.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Reading books, hiking in the woods and playing music don’t have any impact on the environment.

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