“I’ll Believe There’s a Crisis When the People Who Say There’s a Crisis Start Acting Like There’s a Crisis”

When it comes to the environment, talk and carbon offsets are cheap.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Talk is cheap, as they say.

It is easy in the modern age to rail against environmental destruction, to rage against human stewardship of the earth, or lack thereof; to rant about big corporations and the 1%. Our willful destruction of natural habitats, the extinction of countless species, the burning of the Amazon Rainforest; humanity’s environmental crimes are as numerous as the stars in the sky. Where to start?

Making actual changes, however, is significantly harder. No hypothetical questions there. “Where to start?” needs an actual answer.

The louder and more vociferously those on the left- and increasingly even those on the right- defend their unwillingness to change with claims that “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” the more they give themselves away.

They aren’t environmentalists or activists; they are nihilists. They don’t expect things to change; they don’t expect to be around if anything does. In the mind of someone who has excused their own behavior in lieu of the virtue of “seeing the bigger picture”, raging against the machine that made this mess is the only relevant action left.

Except each one of us is the machine that made the mess.

Each of us is a thinking quantum machine that has been using plastics, fossil fuels, and the many bounties of the biosphere with wild and reckless abandon our entire lives, if we were raised in affluent countries.

Like Siddhartha in the perfect garden of his kingly father, Western societies have been slow to awaken to the vast suffering in the world, and the ways in which wealthier countries have perpetuated those cycles of suffering; even the ways wealthy countries have grown wealthier by doing so.

In this world, it is more than enough for each individual to take small steps towards a reconciliation with these transgressions; small steps are indeed the only way.

Consumers are responding, demanding less packaging, more environmentally sound company practices; they are voting with their dollars and it shows. Each and every year on the shelves at the grocery store, more and more organic, fair-trade, vegan, and locally-sourced products are available all the time. Even large corporate attempts to “greenwash” certain products, that is make them seem environmentally conscious with clever packaging ploys, demonstrate an increasing demand for more ethical products.

Average people are responding, recycling, reducing, reusing, eschewing plastics.

Our jet-setting betters in the celebrity class, less so.

It is difficult to take Al Gore seriously about climate change and its relationship to fossil fuels after he sells his network to…Saudi Arabia. It is difficult to be lectured by Drake after he converts a massive passenger jet into his own private luxury plane-bus. Ditto their Royal Eco-Majesties Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The working class, which is most of us, aren’t anxious to live in a world where wealthy people are able to indulge in a pay-as-you-go pollution scheme involving scientifically dubious carbon-offsets that no one is certain will do any good and poor people still take the bus.

It isn’t difficult to see why there is something of a disconnect between the public sentiments on social media with regards to human-driven climate change and how people behave in the voting booth. Looking to our betters for direction, we just aren’t convinced the threat is that real.

How can the world be about to end in 10-years if celebrities haven’t even resorted to jet-pooling yet? I mean, some of them have to be going in the same general direction, right?

It is too easy for members of the public to dismiss this threat as exaggerated. Human driven climate change is only the latest on a long list of many other things that have convinced generation upon generation that it will be the last.

It might be difficult for the youth of today to believe it, but every successive generation has thought it would be the last.

A generation ago acid rain was about to make it impossible to go outside, but that was ok because the ozone layer would be gone before then, Earth’s entire biosphere exterminated by solar energy undissipated by that protective layer.

The Y2K bug was going to wipe out computers, or an undetected asteroid was going to get us all. The generation before thought they would die in a nuclear strike at worst, perish in a nuclear winter at best.

World War II must have seemed like the end of the world; it was. World War I as well. The Black Plague couldn’t have been too pretty, either.

Modern humans also have a nasty habit of starting at shadows. On a time it was thought that library books would spread infectious diseases, test tube babies were going to be the end of humanity as we knew it. There was even an ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy thrown in for good measure.

But as long as Al Gore, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Leonardo DiCaprio and their ilk continue to contribute to their retirement savings funds, the rest of us should, too.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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