I keep seeing this idea being repeated that because BP concocted the idea of the Carbon Footprint to shift blame to individuals that somehow individuals are not responsible. That really, it’s the corporations that are to blame. Bullshit. Yes, of course corporations are to blame. Capitalism has created this never-ending cycle of hyper consumerism. But humans, especially those in countries like the US have happily endorsed it. To this day most people I know refuse to take any responsibility for their role. They drive, fly and consume as much as they please and are perfectly happy continuing that lifestyle. They love the message that they’re not responsible.
I’m not suggesting that the policies of government and the fundamental practices of industrial-corporate capitalism are blameless. Of course they play a key role in perpetuating climate collapse, habitat destruction, etc.
But let’s not pretend that our individual behaviors of mindless, obedient consumption to not complete the cycle. We have allowed ourselves to be re-defined by capitalism from citizens to consumers. We insist on maximum comfort, consumption and convenience at the least expense. We are participants in this equation.
And I’d add that when we see attempts to suggest that we modify our behaviors, to purchase less, to consume less, to change our diet, etc, people push back against the solutions. We don’t want to make the changes that are necessary. We don’t want to do it voluntarily on our own and we’re going to be unhappy when laws are made that restrict our behavior. Legislators of law know that the changes that need to be made will result in a transition to a very different way of living that will result in pushback.
I think a lot of people just want to believe that with new legislation we’ll magically have new technology and all will be fixed. That we can point our fingers at Big Oil and Big Auto. The idea being that there is an easy, magical technological fix that will just sort of happen with a magic wand.
But the hard truth is that for decades we’ve built a whole way of life, all of us, that is based on cheap fossil fuel energy. But this way of life is just a brief blip in human history. It’s only lasted a hundred years and already, it’s done. In only 100 years we’ve burned through enough to change the climate of our planet. And most of that in only the past few decades.
We now have a reckoning coming, be it the massive changes we need to embrace to just begin to curb the problem or the full-on massive collapse that seems most likely.
And we in the developed world, most notably countries like the US, bear the brunt of the responsibility. Not equally, of course, within each wealthy nation there are differences. Oligarchs like Elon Musk who happily fly their private jets on a regular basis obviously contribute far more than a wage worker driving to work. But again, on a whole, wealthier nations have burned more.
I don’t have a lot of hope that we’ll do nearly enough in the short time we have. But pretending our individual consumption doesn’t count for much is a sure way to continuing in the wrong direction.