We all know that climate change is real, we all know that we need to fucking do something about it, yet nothing seems to happen. What is being endlessly discussed is always one small thing or the other small thing, like a ban on plastic straws, or how we should use reusable cups for our coffee. What is more is a tendency to declare one’s own behaviour to be benign while pointing the finger at others and it’s getting on my nerves.
You can easily find this one Twitter, where people proclaim that them getting a new phone every year and flying to X isn’t the problem, but people going on cruises is. Vegetarians point at people who eat meat as “the problem”. Folks in cities with a good infrastructure declare that “nobody needs a car”. There are lots of good discussions about how just making shit more expensive (like a proposed increase in taxes on meat, which will make factory farmed cheap meat slightly more expensive, but still enough to become a problem for poor people, while making ethically farmed meat a lot more expensive, thus discouraging people from buying it) is making fighting climate change poor people’s problem while those rich enough to go on three fucking cruises a year and flying to New York for a shopping trip will just shrug their shoulders.
In line with this is the argument that the problem isn’t people’s consumption and behaviour, but it’s just those evil companies, or to quote a tweet (not going to link to it, this isn’t about the person, but the argument), that:
100 companies produce 71% of CO2 emissions. The idea that climate change is an individual problem is a lie bought & sold by these companies to stop us from holding them responsible. If all academics stopped flying for a year, the planet would still be under their control.
Now, I don’t doubt that the number is true, and believe me, I have absolutely no sympathy for capitalist companies who will happily burn the planet for shareholder value, but how do you think they produce all that CO2? Hint: They don’t produce it by burning coal at the company barbecue. They produce it by making all those damn consumer goods that we buy every day. Yes, by producing your new phone. By producing your steak. By shipping your yoghurt container three times around the world because that’s cheaper than doing it all in one place. By producing the electricity you need to post that shit on Twitter. So a lot of the discussions well meaning people are having can be summed up by the German saying “wash me but don’t wet my fur”: I want to see results, but I am not willing to go through the process (obviously a saying from before the advent of dry shampoo). Of course, individuals are often caught up in this trap, without having good alternatives for more sustainable behaviour (if i wanted to take public transport to work, I’d have to leave home at 1 am or so before the train connection ceases for the night, because the earliest train in the morning wouldn’t be early enough to catch the buses I’d then need to take…), and an individual changing their behaviour will not make climate change stop (I dramatically reduced our meat consumption, the planet is still getting hotter), yet in the long run everybody will need to change.
To come back to the title: Of course 3 billion fucking single use cups a year in Germany are bad and unsustainable. But we won’t solve climate change by just all bringing our reusable cups. But we also won’t stop it while using three fucking billion cups a year. The solutions will have to be manyfold and they will have to change the way we live, before climate change changes the way we live without us getting a say.