I did donate to TeamTrees when it was doing the rounds on YouTube but I have ignored TeamSeas completely as pointless. I will continue to ignore future attempts to extract money from me to save the environment too, except in the case of rare natural disasters that need an acute response.
We all have probably seen campaigns urging us to do this and that to reduce our carbon footprint. Go Vegan. Meatless Mondays. Walk instead of driving. Plant a tree. Etc.
Well, I have been using public transport for most of my life until I was 30 years old but it was driving a car that has allowed me to cut my personal carbon footprint significantly. Why? How? And why it does not matter in the Grand Scheme of Things?
Driving a car has allowed me to get a significantly better-paid job in a destination where public transport just did not go at times that would allow me to have reasonable working times, even with a very lax and flexible working schedule. And while initially using fossil fuels for driving did of course increase my personal carbon footprint temporarily (and minusculy), the extra money that I have earned has allowed me to do things that I would never ever be able to do on my previous pay. I was able to replace old leaky windows in my house. I was able to insulate and renovate the facade and the roof. I was able to overhaul the central heating system. In a few years, the biggest contributor to our carbon footprint – burning coal for winter heating – was reduced to less than one-third. From burning through 10 metric tonnes of coal and being cold all the time we went down to 3 tonnes and having constant-ish temperature throughout the day whilst more than handily offsetting the
100 700 l of gasoline that I have burned on commute per year.
I did not stop there and I made another overhaul to my central heating, converting it to a high-efficiency wood-burning stove. Wood is not always a renewable resource, but I do grow 5-10% of it in a truly renewable fashion on my own land and it would be much more by now if it were not for the blasted water voles who keep destroying my trees planted in the coppice. My health does not allow me to go vegan and my finances are no longer so good that I could put solar panels on my roof, but I do not think that it matters anymore (for the environment) for the same reason that none of my personal actions so far mattered.
I was able to significantly reduce my personal carbon footprint because I have in many aspects fairly privileged life. I own a house with a huge garden, in the country, where I am free to use the land as I please (within reasonable limits). A person living in an apartment in a big city, or even a person owning a house in the suburbs, does not have the same range of choices that I had, or even might not have any choice at all. Thus most people here are stuck with heating their homes with fossil fuels and using electricity from the grid that mostly relies on fossil fuels. Meatless Mondays, planting dozens of trees, or even going full vegan and cycling everywhere will do diddly squat to their carbon footprint, as will literally any other thing they personally can do within the limits given to them by their life circumstances. Not to mention that it is possible to grow meat in a carbon-neutral (and in some places for a limited time even carbon-negative) way.
I view the calls for personal action as a distraction and I am cynical enough that I would not be surprised if at least some of these campaigns were covertly financed by fossil fuels interests. Trying to convince a large number of people to significantly change their lives on their own does not work, because many simply cannot do it no matter how right or righteous the cause is. Trying to convince everyone to go vegan is an exercise in futility, but it might help to associate people advocating for green policies with fringe, unreasonable ideas. A red herring, throwing the public of the scent and putting the guilt on people instead of the corporations and moneyed interests.
However, that does not mean that nobody should take any personal steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Everyone should still do that. If going vegan works for you, go for it. If you can cycle to work, great. I won’t dissuade anyone from doing what little they can to help.
But public campaigns must focus on the only thing that matters in the Grand Scheme of Things – changing policies in a way that makes the polluting of our planet, including CO2 emissions, unprofitable. Without that, nothing you or I do will do diddly.