No Food for Thought

Individual action

admin Sunday August 22, 2021

A lot of what we hear about environmental damage mitigation is about individual action. Don't eat endangered fish. As for the climate crisis, Don't eat beef, Don't eat meat, Don't throw paper in the trash, and some more difficult changes, like Don't use gasoline cars.

Much has already been said about the limits of that approach. Merely 20 firms are behind a third of all carbon emissions. The wealthiest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions. But suppose you're part of that 10%; should you feel guilty and become vegan?

Veganism is not a bad thing. My own carbon footprint is massively inferior to that of the average person of my wealth, in good part because I don't eat nearly as much red meat as those around me. But I still eat meat or fish every week.

Bicycles are not a bad thing. I lost track of how many bikes I purchased. But on occasion I still drive cars which are still mostly gasoline-powered.

Is veganism optimal? I don't know, but I will not become vegan unless society changes and makes it much cheaper for me and everyone to be. I also won't coin a term for someone who refuses to use a gasoline-powered car. Perhaps my cycling background gives me too much balance.

Individual action matters. If the most concerned of us do our very best, we can have an impact. But the greatest impact will come from tackling the greatest issues. Even if the poorest 90% cut 90% of its emissions, we'd still be in trouble. And it's not just about the richest. The responsibility is distributed most unevenly, with 73% of power plant emissions coming from just the worst 5%.

Realistic solutions need to be structured. The climate crisis needs overcoming individualism and implementing Polluter pays. In general, salvation from environmental disasters will come by pricing negative externalities.

The David Suzuki Foundation gives balanced advice on doing our part. Don't burn yourself out by focusing on just one aspect. And if voting is not impactful or visible enough for you, you can become a candidate for a party you'd like to see in your riding, or help founding a greener party.

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