We’re stuck in this endless loop of arguing about how we get started dealing with climate change in a serious way. Until we reach a consensus about what will actually work, we won’t get anywhere. We will just keep going round in circles while we put giant amounts of emissions into the atmosphere every single day. I think you can fit the argument into these three main categories.
Right wing politicians and most of the media focus on individual carbon footprints, and shame environmentalists who aren’t perfect in every way.
Many climate activists say individual action doesn’t work and that we need to change the system first.
People like me say it’s boycotts that will bring down the system from the bottom up.
If you follow different environmental and mainstream media channels, as I do (as little MSM as I can get away with these days); then you’ve no doubt noticed that no one can ever agree and we just go round and round forever. Climate discourse hasn’t moved forward in years. You could play back something now from Good Morning Britain or BBC News that aired before Greta started school striking, and it would be practically indistinguishable from what you see today.
It’s time to end this nonsense once and for all.
How I see it, bringing down capitalism from the bottom up is the only option. The neoliberal political systems in pretty much every country are designed to prevent an uprising occurring at the ballot box. And even if it was possible; even if there were candidates allowed to stand who believed what many of us do, it’s definitely not possible in the next couple of years, which is all the time we have, if even that.
Those who say that many of the choices we make to pollute are made for us are correct. Many of us are effectively forced to do things like drive a car, fly, drink bottled water and consume things that are made of plastic much more than we’d like. This is because of political choices made by the right wing that mean infrastructure is not fit for purpose. I’m not arguing those things. But what I am saying is that there are plenty of areas where we do have real, affordable choices that put pressure on polluters financially. That’s how you bring down capitalism.
If you only consider things that are the same price, or less than what we’re doing now, you rule out plastic free organic food and things like that for a lot of people. But so many people could choose to not own a car if they live in an urban area, or stop buying useless plastic junk. I know there are lots of things I used to buy that cluttered up the house that I now avoid. There are ways most of us can cut down on our consumption of things we don’t need, cut our spending and put pressure on the capitalist system. If we live in smaller homes, with lower heating and cooling requirements for example. Even people who are forced to drive because they live in the suburbs and have poor, expensive public transport and no bike infrastructure can find ways to put pressure on the capitalist economy. Spend money only on the necessities, and the things that mean the absolute most to you.
And I’m not saying that boycotts and consumption reductions should come at the expense of campaigns. They go hand in hand. You may be able to boycott or reduce your consumption of certain products, but maybe you still have to buy the same plastic packaged fruit. That doesn’t mean you can’t join a campaign calling on the supermarket to get rid of the plastic.
We have to do what we can to pressure the polluting status quo with all the tools we have available, and we have to stop going round in circles being dictated to by the right wing media and its obsession with climate hypocrisy. It’s ok to be annoyed about wealthy climate activists and celebrities flying around in their private jets and living in mansions. But we have to stop short of falling into the trap of believing that their overall message should be voided by their individual actions.
We need to all reduce our consumption in whatever way we can. We all have something we can do less of, and those of us in more privileged positions have certainly accumulated more crap. We also have the moral duty to offset what those less fortunate can’t do. And then we need to come together to campaign and pressure.
You can’t use imperfection as an excuse to do nothing, and you won’t have success campaigning profit driven industries when you keep buying as much of their product as you always have.