Understanding, part three

“Actually, the case could be made that our great, great grandchildren are a hidden cause of global warming, through the normal action of mate selection within our own generation. Consumers choose status items in great part to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex. 
How are our great, great grandchildren to blame for this kind of decision-making? The primary contract with the future that we have is through sex, and procreation. Mechanisms of mate selection in the present — which form habits of buying — play a key role in the environment of future generations. (This is in line with evolutionary theory from Darwin to Dawkins.)
One can see the logic for the individual: if a Range Rover attracts the best possible mate, it makes sense to continue to drive one (preferably a new one) right up to the last moment till they are banned or taxed out of existence. The cost from the excess CO2 from the S.U.V. is borne by everyone in the future generation, whereas the genetic advantage from getting a better mate accrues to one’s OWN OFFSPRING ONLY. Thus, the Range Rover gives your great great grandchildren a competitive advantage — in theory. This is, in fact, is the instinctive reasoning behind most status displays — whether with bower birds or people. Nature does everything for a reason.
Developing economies are moving this way, as shown in an article on new cars in India — an advertisement showing a man with a sporty car, with the headline: ‘Now, That’s A Man.’


The implicit message: the man with the car is sexier; ergo, he will have better marriage opportunities, and in life, there is no deeper or more profound subject. In the U.S., in wealthier communities, you need more than just a car to make an impression, you probably do need a Range Rover (observe the streets of New York).

Here’s that consideration expressed in another Times article, a review of hybrid S.U.V.’s, in November, 2006:
’…Until now, hybrids could hardly be considered babe magnets or or hunk attractors…Consider my brother. Fed up with the cost of feeding a gallon of imported fuel into his Range Rover for every 11 miles driven, he picked up a hybrid crossover utility, a Lexus RX 400h, instead. A year later, the drumbeat of teasing from friends and loved ones — they accused him of driving a girlie car — compelled him to ditch the Lexus and get another Range Rover.’

One could say it’s the call of one’s own future generation — their urge for the best DNA available — that is steering you to the Range Rover dealership, if you feel so inclined. (This habit of mind is true even of couples that are already married, as another Times writer, Keith Bradsher, wrote in his classic article ‘Was Freud a Minivan or S.U.V. Kind of Guy?’ The conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds noted that simply making parenthood ‘hipper’ would help dissuade married couples from persisting in buying S.U.V.’s, and choose minivans instead, because having kids would be viewed as the ’sexy’ lifestyle itself, and one wouldn’t need an ‘adventurous’ S.U.V. as a marker of continued sexual viability.)
It’s obvious that many people could care less about the car someone drives. It’s also obvious that many people still do — and in face of reading about the looming crisis of climate change, turn the page to a Range Rover ad and head to the dealership. (Again, look at the streets.)
How to get around the existing expectations? Changing women’s opinions faster might help, since women still tend to be on the receiving end of wealth displays; if Range Rovers, or new little Indian cars, had no symbolic value to a man’s marriage prospects, or NEGATIVE VALUE to marriage prospects, it would certainly change the landscape quickly. Maybe there is too much embedded in essentially conservative human expectations for a big change fast, though any change would help deflect the trajectory as India and China begin to adopt U.S. buying patterns. And a ‘contract with generations’ might be a good symbolic statement to raise awareness.
The other answer: electric Range Rovers.”



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