The endless argument of Consumption vs Production

Boycotts + campaigning to take down capitalism

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.

Be wary of car brands infiltrating the bike industry

So far, just an overpriced standard EMTB. But be wary of speed restrictions.

Car companies. They’re the bad guys who eliminated urban cycling in the UK and elsewhere. They brought us the joy that is one giant SUV after another on our narrow roads; originally built for bicycles, narrow vans and the odd truck. Now they want into the e-bike industry as well. Haven’t they done enough damage?

To be fair to them, there are a couple of potential benefits they can bring to the cycling industry. But before I get to that, I want to run through the obvious downsides.

High tech solutions to questions no-one asked

They’ll try to advocate for cars and bikes coexisting without infrastructure, and push overly complicated technology for bikes and cars to talk to each other. Just as momentum starts to build for bans on private cars in urban areas, they’d love to set us back and seduce neoliberal lawmakers (who eat this kind of stuff up) with plans to make cars and bikes work together by leveraging new technology. Why do the obvious thing of getting rid of the cars and having all that glorious space and clean air, when we can have cars and bikes that talk to each other and traffic lights to avoid collisions? It’s not as if we could use our eyes and ears to see bikes and pedestrians coming or anything.

Speed

They’ll try to increase speeds in e-bike regulations from 25kph to make them more like small motorcycles. This is a big one. Car companies are supposedly about speed and efficiency, so of course they won’t be able to resist lobbying their mates in power for higher e-bike speeds; and they may well think why not get rid of the pedals too while we’re at it? Never mind that you get stuck in traffic and passed by people on bikes gliding along to their destinations before you.

Greenwashing

They’ll try to use cycling to greenwash their businesses so they can phase out fossil cars or privately owned EVs later. Clearly, the car industry loves a bit of greenwashing. Manufacturers often promote hybrids while giving the impression that they’re better than EVs because you don’t have to plug them in. Just ignore the fact that you still have to fill them with explosive fossil juice. Or they make a car that powers the wheels like an EV, except the only way to charge it is with a tank of petrol. Seriously. Nissan calls that e-Power.

Presumably the next logical step would be to distract people with some e-bikes to make you look really green. But of course if you want to travel further than e-bike range, you’ll still want that aforementioned giant fossil powered SUV. Ok, maybe I’ll be charitable and say it’s a hybrid by 2025 when the world’s melting.

Survival

As a desperation move, I could imagine a car company or two buying a bike company and rebranding it in a last ditch effort to turn around their flagging fortunes when private car sales drop off a cliff. Or, alternatively, I could see it in the case of a manufacturer that gets caught particularly flat-footed during the EV transition. A rapid pivot to Micromobility might be the only play left to save the company.

The Positive(s)?

I did promise some positives, so here they are. Or here’s one anyway. All I could come up with. The car industry will bring a new perspective and prioritise vehicle grade components that last for urban journeys. Especially for cargo bikes, trikes and quads. But, the thing is that you can get a new perspective without resorting to embracing the car industry. Almost anyone from any industry can come in with a fresh vision of what bikes should be (anything without a derailleur would be a start). It’s not worth the risk of the automotive sector wrecking the bike industry. And I’m not saying that as someone who thinks much of the bike business. I’m very much of the opinion that it requires a massive shake up.

So… I guess that makes zero positives actually…

Before I write them off entirely, I should mention that this is assuming the current neoliberal system stays as it is. The system which of course will kill us all in due course if it does. However, if / when we do nationalise the car industry under a new economic system, it becomes a whole new ball game. You would have the engineering expertise of the auto industry but without the profit motive. In that case, you could repurpose their vast factories to make cargo bikes at record pace, and you wouldn’t have to worry about them lobbying for turning e-bikes into small motorcycles, since there would be no one left to lobby. The government (and the people) would be running the show.

So technically there was one positive in the end; but it probably won’t be a possibility any time soon when you look at the state of our politics. For example, Penny Mordaunt says she will cut fuel tax in half if she becomes PM (sigh).

When will people stop thinking I’m nuts?

I’m pretty convinced that the best way to do something about the climate crisis is to talk about it. Bring it up. Plant a seed. Make people question everything. So I try to bring it up in YouTube comments, or Facebook groups, or Twitter. Even in person back when I used to talk to actual people who aren’t my family. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to this tactic.

The main one being that everyone thinks you’re nuts. I’m pretty sure Chris Packham thinks I’m nuts for posting about how dire the climate situation is on his Facebook page. I’m even more sure that Geoff Marshall is convinced I’m a lunatic since all my comments on his YouTube channel are about our existential crisis. I can’t just enjoy the videos about old trains without making it about human survival on this planet.

I’m always there to crash the party with a comment sure to depress (and sometimes actively piss off) people who just want to have a laugh at a silly video. They’re not interested in the end of the world. Why can’t I leave them alone and keep my doom and gloom to myself?

The other problem is it brings you down to Earth with a thud whenever you talk to regular people about these things. It makes you realise how far away we are from action. In our little climate semi-doomer echo chamber (which is a tiny niche within a niche), we’re talking about big ideas to save life on Earth, and we’re making changes to our lives that make us feel like we’re making a difference, even though we’re not really. And then you realise that everyone else is about 10 steps behind. It’s especially bad face to face. They talk to me about how they do their recycling, so they’re doing their part. They’re driving a hybrid car or something to that effect (just kidding – never had anyone driving a hybrid). Something so outdated that it makes me feel like giving up then and there.

But perhaps the worst thing is online when people completely ignore your comment. I’d honestly prefer someone reply to me and tell me ten reasons why I’m supposedly wrong, how nuclear power is the future, that biofuels can enable us to keep consuming as we are indefinitely, than have them completely ignore me. Sometimes I’ll go back the next day to a comment I wrote that I felt was well written, easy to comprehend and fact-filled; and I’ll find it the only one that hasn’t had a single like or reply. It’s so demoralising. I’m telling the truth, but because everyone has accepted the bullshit idea that we have 30 years to cut emissions to zero, they just give me the digital equivalent of a blank stare. And like with all the other things about society that depress me, it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon either.

It really is pretty amazing how 40 or so years of neoliberalism has created a scenario where people who speak the truth are treated as if they’re nutcases. When you look back to before Reagan and Thatcher, everything was so truthful. Especially if you go back before World War 2. Science and facts were respected. People cared about what was true and morally right.

I know that in the end I’ll be proven right, but I don’t know if that will be able to make up for years of being treated like a weirdo when I’m just trying to inform people about what’s happening to our world. The scientists are generally pretty awful at getting the message out there, and people like Guy McPherson have effectively been de-platformed. So it makes sense for as many of us as possible to step in and spread the word on their behalf. I don’t even know if I’ve convinced anyone though. If I did plant a seed in someone’s mind and that one person later realised I was right and is now spreading the message further, then it would all be worth it. But I honestly don’t know if I have. I wish there was a way I could find out.

It feels like it’s not just me being ignored and treated as a crazy person though. It feels like anyone under 40 doesn’t matter. Who cares what we say? We’re nuts according to the establishment in this country. You want to have a fully funded healthcare system? Nuts. You want to get rid of the royal family? Preposterous. You want to change the economic system so humans can have a future on this planet? Ok that’s it. Out! Get out! Crazy kids.

When is it all going to flip on it’s head? When are they going to become the crazy ones? I can’t wait. I’m counting down the days.

Everything we’re doing now will have to be undone

Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.

These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.

It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.

I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.

It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.

Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.

And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.

We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.

We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?