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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Sex sells, but at what cost?
Dr Matt Prescott
Matt Prescott

"Sex sells" is the mantra of advertisers, but our fixation with status symbols and material wealth is undermining our efforts to tackle climate change, argues Matt Prescott. In this week's Green Room, he outlines how he thinks we can love ourselves and the planet.

A model sitting in a car (Getty Images)
Climate change is an unintended side-effect of many of the ways in which we show off, such as driving over-sized cars... and buying the latest electronic gadgets
When it comes to tackling global challenges, human beings are both unique super-achievers and shameless under-achievers.

Unfortunately, many of the areas where we under-achieve are not randomly distributed, but tend to be related to protecting the environment or helping other people.

If we want to turn over a new leaf, I feel that we need to do a better job of learning from our past successes and failures, and to be honest about our limitations.

In terms of impressive achievements, it is hard to top the Moon landings.

Although wildly imaginative and ambitious, the objective of getting to the Moon and back enabled everyone involved to focus on a single, highly visible goal.

Apollo 11 mission to the Moon (Image: Nasa)
Starry-eyed: the Moon landings captivated a generation of people

By comparison, humanity's efforts to tackle global poverty and climate change have frequently been insincere, mean-spirited and feeble.

Few of our efforts have been proportionate to the scale of the problems we face, our priorities have been complicated and confused, and no-one has ever been held accountable for the failure to deliver on our promises.

Given that we feel obliged to say that we care about the environment and other people, I am interested in why we have remained so consistently, and predictably, bad at turning our promises into effective action.

Material world

I have come to the conclusion that all humans suffer from a profound inner conflict. If we genuinely want to make a break from the status quo, I feel that we need to take a fresh look at ourselves.

A helpful first step would be to stop pretending that we are objective and rational decision makers, and to face up to the fact that we are riddled with emotions and conflicts of interest, which make it hard for us to share wealth, status and power.

Gold dollar symbol (Image: PA)
In a world of 'bling', the last thing a car is used for is getting from A to B; it is a symbol of wealth, power and status, and a tool for enhancing a person's sex life

Although we have acquired an impressive, even dazzling, array of knowledge and cultures, it is our evolutionary past which has determined the senses we possess, the structure of our bodies, the hard-wiring of our brains and the ways in which we instinctively interact with each other and the world around us.

In addition, we are sexually reproducing creatures that must compete to attract a mate if we are ever to produce offspring; as well as social and hierarchical animals.

This means that we enjoy living in relatively small, stable family and social groups and instinctively rank everyone in our social group according to a combination of their beauty, intellect, physique, wealth, health and power.

To a considerable extent, how well we score in these criteria determines our social status, and thus how well we compete for sexual partners.

A positive side-effect of all this sexual competition is that it has encouraged us to strive for success and status in many different fields of human endeavour; from politics, business and science to art, music and medicine.

In early human societies, people were able to compete in non-lethal ways, by collecting beautiful objects such as feathers, unusual pebbles or animal skins.

Peacock (Image: Emma Murtagh)
The massive size and impressive quality of a peacock's tail is used to signal to females the size of handicap that a male can endure

A person who had the most spare time, strength or skill would, on average, be the one who collected the best status symbols, and thus impressed the potential sexual partners around them the most.

Without access to fossil fuels, it was hard to cheat, and these status symbols could generally be treated as reliable indicators of an individual's relative merits.

Now that we have succeeded in harnessing the world's fossil fuel reserves, our brains' fixation on visible status symbols has become something of a hindrance and much less reliable as a means of discriminating between potential mates.

In addition, modern technologies have given us a far greater capacity to alter and to degrade our environment.

Unnatural selection

In my view, climate change is an unintended side-effect of many of the ways in which we show off, such as driving over-sized cars, owning holiday homes and buying the latest electronic gadgets.

But where does our obsession with showing off come from?

In the animal kingdom, the massive size and impressive quality of a peacock's tail is used to signal to females the size of handicap that a male can endure while also meeting his basic needs. This is known as the handicap principle.

In humans, the tendency to show off how much we can afford to waste has resulted in gamblers risking the loss of a million dollars on the turn of the card, kings building palaces with hundreds of rooms, and rappers covering themselves in gold and silver as part of "bling" culture.

Woman in carnival outfit (Image: AP)
Nature is often the inspiration for colourful carnival outfits
In a world of "bling", the last thing a car is used for is getting from A to B; it is a symbol of wealth, power and status, and a tool for enhancing a person's sex life.

If we cannot naturally restrain the ways in which we attempt to show off, because we want to attract the opposite sex, we need to take this into account and to develop fair and robust ways of making up for our own natural limitations and of taking carbon emissions out of the ways we compete with each other.

We are not going to stop being competitive as a species, but this does not mean we cannot foster co-operation and organise our social, economic and political activities in ways that allow us to align short-term competitive advantage with long-term sustainability.

Although big-picture targets are always going to be useful, I also feel that we should create some smaller, more tangible first steps for action. These could help us to feel secure about our social status, foster a sense of achievement and encourage changes in everyday activities.

For example, with energy-efficient light bulbs, I have found that once the logic of banning incandescent light bulbs was accepted it rapidly gained wider support, and allowed more ambitious solutions to become feasible.

As a social animal, we care what other people think about us, but don't like to admit weakness or to move first.

Where the temptation to go for short-term advantage is too great, we need to create robust ways of detecting, reporting and policing selfishness.

All of this means that in many respects, the human being is the weakest link in our decision-making process. The money and technologies are there if we want to make a difference.

It would only cost $10bn (5bn) a year to provide 1.1 billion people with clean drinking water, yet we currently spend $38bn (19bn) on pet food and $1,200bn (600bn) on the world's military.

What we have so far lacked is the determination to act with purpose and passion.

I therefore hope we can rise above our usual excuses, and decide to give the world a helping hand in the same way that we committed ourselves to reaching for the Moon.

Dr Matt Prescott is an environmental consultant and director of banthebulb.org, an online campaign encouraging greater energy efficiency

The Green Room is a series of opinion pieces on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Matt Prescott? Are we obsessed with status symbols and material wealth? Is the price of showing off too high? Can we learn to love ourselves and the planet?

I think this is one of the best and most concise reading of our failure to stop our degradation of the planet I've read in a long time. I'm emailing it to all my friends. This past year I've got a list of ten things I've done to reduce my footprint on the earth, but looking at them they're pretty small potatoes to the new clothes I love to buy, the driving I "have" to do, etc. Maybe by rereading this article periodically I can do better.
Cary O'Malley, surrey, B.C. Canada

I disagree. Banging on about being green is a growing status symbol, and one every bit as vacuous as a new car, clothes or electrical goods. 'Green' has become the new marketing tool, and people are falling over themselves to become carbon neutral and pay money to plant trees. The problem is that our society is built on the need for continual expansion and growth, and changing all the lightbulbs in your house and car sharing once a week really will not make any difference.
Imogen, London

I have a Prius. If I got a sexier car, my wife would not like it.
Jared, Dix Hills, U.S.A.

Most cannot afford an expensive car, but other consumer goods are relatively cheap. The problem is the fixation that many people (fuelled by the media) have about the famous, regardless how shallow many of these people are.
Neil Small, Scotland

Nonsense - anyone who sprouts ideas like; "we need to create robust ways of detecting, reporting and policing selfishness" is clearly daft. Green issues are extremely important; we don't need misguided comment like this to muddy the reputation of those who support environmental protection. It would be terrible to suggest that being environmentally friendly means having less fun in life and being less ambitious.
Richard Tanner, Dorking

I'm afraid I agree with the pessimists. I think that humans are going to devastate themselves, if not become extinct. The very qualities that can help a species flourish under some circumstances, and that can be adaptive in the short run, can lead to it's demise when circumstances chage.
Patricia Shannon, Atlanta, Georgia USA

Your argument recursively undermines you. If what you say is true (which is debatable) then you must be engaging in it in order to improve your sexual display, and therefore it cannot be trusted to be a rational argument.
Steve, Olmsted, Vast Prairie

I fancy men who ride bicycles, take the train, buy products with little packaging and wear second-hand clothes. Seriously. If only I was prettier! ;)

While I generally agree with the article, I take objection to the comments that essentially say "... until there is a environmental way to live my current life style without costing me more...". Is that not the point? It is our lifestyle that is the problem. It's our direct and indirect subsidies that hide the real cost. If these costs were factored in, then your lifestyle would cosy you much more than you think. Add in environmental damage... or someone starving in a overseas sweat shop so you can have your bling cheap. Sad to say, but until the true costs are applied, many will not change.
Gary Davis, Chicago, US

Sustainability and continued population/economic growth are mutually exclusive. In my view, energy (Embodied and otherwise) is just too cheap.
dick, Portland, Oregon

Two things: first, I agree that sexual competition is probably the biggest reason behind our conspicuous consumption; this in turn destroys the environment and keeps about 90% of humanity in poverty. Second, I agree with Andrew from Chesterfield. We should recognize scientists and environmentalists who do something. But he's also nailed the problem: they're already doing something. Thus, they're too busy earning their fame to actually participate in it.
Michael, Montreal, Canada

Hmm, but status symbols change over time...surely the first status symbol was not being thin - "see, I have enough food to eat" and now it's looking thin that is the status symbol..everything changes. Anyway, the world has gone through at least one total snowball ice age, so even if we try our best to trash the planet, life'll come back again. We aren't the end point of evolution.
Rob Morrison, Somewhere in Japan , for some reason

I'm with Colleen in San Francisco on this, but then it's easy when you're in California because you've got Arnie Schwarzenegger who's got bigger Solar Panels than anyone...
Candy Spillard, York, UK

It is probably already too late to stop major catastrophic climate change. If Matt Prescott is right about our excessive lifestyles being a way of 'showing off' to attract a mate and reproduce, then it is ironic that this same instinct is creating conditions on Earth where our offspring won't be able to exist. I think we all deserve the 'Darwin Award'.
Andrew Slaughter, Grahamstown, South Africa

Care to make a better sugestion Imogen? Or are you one of those typical whining brits? Great artical I thought, I dont have a billion dollars to make a change, but if I car pool or sponsor a hungry kid, I can make some difference. And if a few million more people follow, then we are on the way.
Simo, Australia

Everyone on the planet should eat more meat. More cows/pigs/sheep spew more CO2 out their rear ends than some small countries. If we all eat more meat, there will be less animals and less CO2. Also the ones who used to be vegans will get a balanced diet. Sex sells? It sure does - to the gullible masses.
Graeme, Glasgow, Scotland

I agree with Matt. We are obsessed with status symbols and material world.Nonetheless, we don't remove our ill behaviors toward our environment in a much more realistic manner. On the other hand, there is an ironic statement on natural selection from the notion of him; he redefines natural selection in a rhetoric:Yes!We must chance on whatever else is being served beyond the mass.
Yontem, Turkey

Mumbo jumbo claptrap. Insecure people may buy cars to attract the opposite sex, the rest of us enjoy the thrill of driving a fast car for its own sake. Not all of us strive for higher social status in order to 'compete for sexual partners'. Not everything is motivated by wanting to show-off. Seems to me that the nerdy geeks in our world always want to take the fun away from the other people who like to enjoy themselves. In this article the tenuous connections to justify the argument are nave.
Tim H, UK

Certainly sex is a prime motivation for us. That's nothing new but wasn't a global problem until the last century. the real problem is that there is just too many of us. Reduce the human population by 9/10 and all the problems will disappear and we can all do what comes naturally without being sermonized about it.
daigle, simcoe, ontario, canada

the concesus appears to be that there are too many humans for the planet to sustain, however with global warming and the planets apparent impending doom we won't have to worry as there will be very few left and the natural balance will be restored as has happened time and time before. problem solved.
Emma, kent

I keep saying to my friends that leaving the caves has spoiled humanity. Assuming the set-point theory applies to happiness, we are no better today then we were thousands of years ago, despite the environmental impact we have caused. I agree with Carolyne from Liverpool: the problem is that we have too many people. Reducing energy consumption by, say, 20% seems like an impressive achievement, but we'll be back at the same amount of energy wasted when population grows 25%. Therefore, I'm skeptic on the validity of (relatively) small efforts to save energy like replacing light bulbs -- not to question the impact heavy metals of fluorescent lamps may have on the environment. In my opinion the solution is to live in small sustainable communities where cars and cell phones aren't needed. Big cities need planes, buildings and fast food. They're just not practical, and create unaddressable problems. Perhaps, and hopefully, replacing light bulbs will be a step in the way back to small communities.
Romulo A. Ceccon, Brazil

I agree with the author. We have to radically shift our thought process regarding how we approach the climate change. Luxury things have to be made costlier. For example innovation, different name for profits for corporations, should be leisurely paced, instead of one following the other with slight improvement requiring more resources. Environment cost be included in to the products that pollute the environment. This is not a nation/individual problem but a problem for the whole of manking.
Srinivas, Hyd,India

I completely agree with Matt, I feel torn between status symbols and doing the right thing, as a single guy I see the adverts suggesting my ability to find a mate would increase with a bigger faster car, gadgets are now the equivalent of male jewellery, ...it's all ego boosting and competitive - the mine is bigger than yours syndrome...I don't want to take part in this facile competition but when I look around it seems to me that girls find guys with big expensive german cars attractive.......surely competition should be based on Quality of life not consumerism ??
Chris, Bristol

Climate change? Prove it. So far all there is is a discredited scientific paper and a has been American politician preaching from flawed data. It's all rubbish.
Joanthan, London England

The article promised to tell us how we could learn to love ourselves and the planet, but I saw precious little "How" except for the wee bit about light bulbs. Given the name of the organisation that Matt works for, was that mention product placement or is the article cynical spin to plug his pet light bulb replacement jihad?
Sean, Cardiff

The passionate negativity that one reads concerning protecting our environment confuses me. If I were to proceed with complete self-centered selfishness I would still WANT and expect; clean air, a rich and varied flora and fauna, space to live, water to drink, food enough to survive, and a sewage system that works..........this is what is at stake if we breed without limit and consume unchecked.
Gretchen Scharnagl, Miami, FL USA

I agree that many are obsessed with status. But it is not so much the lies of marketing people that got us here. People are raised with the notion of what they want is the only thing that is important. That expectations are more important than reality. Those that get sucked into that become amoral and learn it from childhood from parents.
Spencer Newman, Fullerton CA USA

can we also stop the biggest producers of Global warming from displaying them selves they are big brash loud and make one heck of a mess what am i talking about Volcanoes
Nigel, london England

Knowing humanity as I do it is ridiculous to mention how much is spent on Pet food or the military in the same breath as how much would be needed for clean water. Most of mankind would happily walk past a starving member of their own race but be up in Arms about a starving animal. Whilst we have this seemingly in built desire to fight we will never stop spending on the military. Global warming has become the De Riguer choice for celebrities to support so it will eventually get massive support Justified or not.
John Walton, Manchester

If the government wishes to have a cleaner world, then please create more local jobs. When closing down a factory please think twice as many people then have to travel a long distance to find work, more unecessary immsions into the air.
Carol Woodall, UK

The article complements something I have heard previously - that the main things that keep a consumer society spending are 1) competition with the neighbours, and 2) addictions.
Peter Hale, Climate Concern UK, Northallerton, England

When i see someone who has a flash car or a nice house, i think to myself "i wonder how much debt this person is in". Now if we all thought like me, we could crack this global warming thing.
Lee Cage, Oldham

This is nothing new "we need to be selfless & more in tune with our neighbours & environment" ie. Moses has been saying this for the last 4000 years and Jesus for the Last 2000 years, as well as in many other religions. We where put onto this planet to look after it & manage it properly as well as looking after each other, but its obvious that greed has got in the way ! Sadly, one day (one way or another) some will be held to account for all of mankind's greed !
brad, Lincoln

Things might be bad where you were but think about the global picture. In many cases only education about hygene is required. In others, only a filter and a handpump. These are very inexpensive but can supply hundreds of people with clean water! Education is cheap and can mean an entire community will have access to CLEAN water. There are Roman water channels which still carry clean water 2000 years after they were built and which have had little or no maintenance. Installing infrastructure similar to that which we have in the developed world is NOT always the answer.
Roddy, Kirkcaldy, Scotland

I agree with Matt Prescott, but want to say to Peter from Newbury " I take it that you're driving a Lada, and it's bright yellow?". It will be a great day when schools & hospitals get all the money they need and the air force has to run a cake stall to buy a new bomber.
peter, Surbiton

Funny. Just had the car conversation with another engineer today. I am all about economy and longevity in my vehicles, but he wants raw power. I am not going to convince him otherwise. Similar gaps exist with housing, and other possesions. Not sure how to reach people on issues like this. Reality is that 'bling' and other ostentatious displays of wealth are still 'cool'.
Marc, Sufflok,VA,USA

Frankly, I thought it was a cretinous article. The aim of maximising individual welfare has been a core economic principle for hundreds of years so Dr Prescott is slightly behind on this discovery; in my experience very few people actually care about global warming and actively object to being lectured about it. Many people have said to me that they resent being blamed for slight fluctuations in the weather.
Tim, East Yorkshire

Given that we have been using cars as status symbols for so long I wonder when the green car industry will wise up and stop making green cars that are so ugly. With so many 1 and 2 people families around now an eco-sports car would seem to be a winner. I think getting people interested in Green is all down to design and we don't have enough designers thinking about it yet.
Heidi Mardon, Hamilton, New Zealand

the death of idealism occurred with the removal of the native americans in the colonial periods. the problem is because of technology; people dont need to rely on one another anymore setting the foundation for greed and wealth which is what the world is experiencing now. our pollution is what is causing global warming and our pollution is caused by greed. pollution takes time and money to clean up and both of which are resources that big business is not willing to give up. if it weren't for the regulations already set in place we humans would have most likely killed ourselves and our environment just to maximise profits. what does a corporation operate for? not to set a standard in the market or to help the community. they operate to make money the easiest way they know how and pollution is easier to release into the environment than inert waste. thank you
jeremy, savannah, USA

Its all well and good saying these things but maybe if the government said "ok car manufacturers we are putting in legislation to have cars ONLY do 60mph and have to do xyz to the gallon". Have all new houses have solar panals or wind turbines. Instead of bemoaning coal how about developing technology to caputre the CO'2 then GIVE that technology to the third world as they have vast resources of coal and oil which us westerners are saying dont use. Thus keeping them poor. Its our current society of worshiping the wrong people. Footballers singers actors. When we should be praising charity workers, enviromentalists (who do somthing) and scientists. I personally think that papers and television should stop showing celebs who do nothing for the environment people like pete doherty or the beckhams.
Andrew Giggal, Chesterfield

Fast cars and conspicuous consumption are definitely part of sexual display. But we females choose our males based on what we consider best for long term relationships and families. Girls, we need to tell the guys with the hot cars that they aren't husband material, and we aren't impressed by this behavior. We did it once, when we choose men who weren't going to kill each other in sword fights, we can do it again. Choosing the guys who protect the future, even for that one night stand, is promoting your own welfare.
Colleen Sudekum, San Francisco, CA USA

Saved the planet. Kill off all humans.
C Hemming, Ottawa, Canada

Living in excess has lead to the downfall of every great society. Unfortunately, this time we have more people than ever living some of the most excessive lifestyles we've ever seen. The very fact that I'm sitting here on the internet writing this is representative of this.
Matt L., Pennsylvania, USA

The parallel drawn with energy efficient light bulbs only works here because nothing is sacrificed, in fact, savings are made. The same will happen with cars - people will still want big and fast cars, but in future they'll be electric, so they can still get laid and we will still have a hope in hell of saving the planet. I think I agree with Ian from St. Louis in that we must work with our nature and that we need viable solutions, such as banning the bulb. So why is banning an inefficient bulb taking so long if it is only the first step and everyone agrees it should be banned?
Brendan Patrick, Glasgow, Scotland

Although a thought provoking and entertaining article your crude rationalisation between the environmental problematique and 'sexual competition' etc neglected more profound and systemtic roots of the problem; by that I mean the western worldview which is the set of values, concepts,ideas and principles handed down from one generation to the next and secondly the capitalistic-consumerist character of western society.
Shane McLoughlin,

It's quite evident that the prevalent attitude today is "Self, self, self". As for social responsibilities...pah! If only humanity wasn't so immature the world would be a better place.
Dave, Crewe, UK

A great deal of the market for consumer goods is created by marketing which sells us things we never previously conceived we could "need". And this is driven by a small minority of the wealthy and powerful, who don't pause to consider whether a product is a good thing. It reminds me of an episode of Dragons Den where the panel summarily rejected a water-saving device because they felt uncomfortable about working with a man with principles. 5 minutes later, they were busy competing to see who could buy a share of a company making a plastic puzzle toy in China and selling it at a handsome mark-up. These toys will no doubt end up in landfill in very short order. To paraphrase Mr Spock, "The greed of the few, or the one, outweighs the greed of the many."
Adrian Wilkins,

The world's problems are due to 'too many humans'. Until very recently, it took between 30 and 60 generations to double world population. Now, due to better health and sanitation our species can do this in one generation. The only answer is to curb fertility and achieve the reduction of our own numbers to a sustainable level.
Carolyne Kershaw, Liverpool UK

It's obvious that largely everything we do, civilisation itself is simply peacock feathers. Trying to change that would require a change in our genetic makeup. It's just not going to happen. Of course there is a simple solution. Make energy expensive. Make fossil fuel the source of most taxation. Get rid of or reduce income taxes. Tax things that are bad, not things that are good.
Colin Smith, Berlin, Deutschland

I think it's in Animal farm that the statement is said," All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal then others" In the end you can't buck natural instinct. Also I've heard it said that it would take another 3 Earths to support the Human Race. That's the major problem, there are to many of us.
John Russell, Luton, UK

I have noticed a slight shift in pop culture, it is now trendy to be "green". Unfortunately, businesses have seen this and now advertise their products as being environmentally friendly, when in reality they are not all that great. This requires the consumer to employ a higher level of inquiry into products. We are so roped into a consumptive path that it is difficult to invest in a purely practical sense in everything from cars to clothing.
Meg, Palo Alto,USA

I fully agree with Matt's article, which is why I am often not very optimistic about efforts to tackle global warming, let alone pollution, overfishing, species extinction, etc. As Gandhi once said, the planet has more than enough to meet man's needs, but it doesn't have nearly enough to satisfy his greed.
Jose Gonzalez, Makati, Philippines

I think this article misses one of the major problems in tackling things like climate change. And that is that the "solutions" currently offered represent pretty sizable reductions in standard of living. I and many people are willing to make changes in our lives to protect the environment - using less electricity, going to fluorescent bulbs, trying to reduce driving some, etc. But major changes are often just too major. The environmentalists tell me I should own a tiny car that gives me a backache when I drive more than 10 minutes and makes merging onto the highway a life threatening undertaking. And with all that it saves maybe 10 MPG. Sorry, but the tradeoff isn't worth it. They also tell me I should sit at home all the time and not fly, not go on a cruise, and not go on a road trip. Sorry, but traveling and seeing the world, other cultures, etc, is one of my passions. This all has NOTHING to do with being "sexy." It instead has to do with living an existence I consider fun and enlightening, not droll and boring. Trust me, the people driving minivans aren't doing it to attract a mate. They are doing it because they perceive an increase in standard of living. Until we find ways to tackle these problems that do not drastically change our way of life, I fear they will go largely un-tackled.
Jim, Blacksburg, VA, USA

This illustrates the fact that more money and a sucessful economy doesn't necessarily mean that there's anything worthwhile to spend it on. What's the point in having endless electronic gadgets when the price of a house with enough space to keep them in is still sky high, and having a garden of our own to stand in is rapidly becoming a pipe dream. Bottom line - too many humans in this world chasing limited resources
Andy R, Sheffield

I believe we can all adjust. Not just adjust in the sense that we simply don't buy a bigger car, more use the car 'we' have increasingly less, getting used to being a person rather than an image... have no shame to use public transport. I concurr... Work with nature, not against it. Ultimately we won't win. It's simply not possible.
Sam Barnes, Current Location: Vaniose, Near Tignes, Les Alpes.

Matt, please tell us how you plan to supply 1.1 billion people with a year's clean drinking water for only 90 cents per person. Having worked to do exactly that in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last three years, in the face of polluted ground water and changing weather patterns, I know a lot of people who would be excited to know exactly what you have to offer.
Ray Montgomery, Baghdad, Iraq

It seems to me that a good way of changing people's views on social responsibilities would be to change what we consider to be symbols of status or desirability. If having a wind turbine in your back yard was as appealing as a corvette, more people would pony-up the money and go green.
Peter, Omaha, USA

Good article. I've often thought the same thing myself. Despite our great achievments and our ability to manipulate our enviroment we are still animals and I feel we have lost our way in relation to dealing with the enviroment. I would even go so far as to say that some disease's that afflict us may be caused by the removal of ones enviroment. I don't think the global warming issue is as bad as it's been made out. We've probably sped it up but it's going to happen regardless and on a much larger scale then anything we can create. I think we as humans need to rethink the way we live and change fundamentally our attitude towards our planet, because despite what Star Trek and Star Wars might suggest, there's no way in hell were getting off this planet. The nearest inhabital planet would take at least ten generations of humanity to reach.
Ken McAlester, Dublin, Ireland

It's certainly true that you can't rely on the general public to back the big idea - the Apollo program cost less over the years than the amount of money spent on lipstick in the US, but it only went ahead because the government had decided it would. But to imply that we all buy cars to improve our sex lives is a bit far-fetched - I have only *ever* bought cars to get from A to B. Or am I the only one like this out there?
Peter, Newbury, UK

Good article, I agree to it.
Ramaa Devi, Mumbai, India

I agree with Matt in this sense: if humanity were only better, wiser, and more responsible, then all of our problems with war, poverty, and the environment could be solved. If only we were "better" then there would be no need for police, the military, or even government. Matt's suggestion is Utopian and given the immediate need for viable solutions we must abandon these absurd and counterproductive platitudes. You must work with our nature, not against it.
Ian, St Louis USA

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