There are so many stories we can tell ourselves to justify doing nothing about the impending climatic catastrophe, but perhaps the most insidious is that, whatever we do, will be too little too late. That it will take the Government and the Big Corporate to make any difference.
Climate change has arrived well ahead of schedule. Scientists’ projections that seemed dire a decade ago turn out to have been unduly optimistic: the warming and the melting, and the positive feedback loop connecting them, is occurring much faster than the models predicted. It is true that laws and money is necessary. And yet, laws and money cannot do enough either. It will also take profound changes in the way we live. Because at the bottom of the climate-change crisis is another crisis – that of our lifestyles. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us consumers, and most of the rest made in the name of our needs, desires and preferences.
Striving to live in harmony with Nature is not a new endeavour. In the past, the reasons for doing so have been different – like the Gandhian values of inculcating self-sufficiency. However, since the time of Adam Smith, we have moved inexorably towards “division of labour”. Unfortunately, this move towards specializaton has also proved to be a move away from personal responsibility. We have abdicated responsibility for everything except the very narrow range of products/ services whose “producers” we are. The rest of the time, we are just “consumers”. Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another — our meals to agribusiness, health to the doctor, education to the teacher, entertainment to the media, care for the environment to the environmentalist, political action to the politician.
This division of labor has given us many of the blessings of civilization Yet this same division of labor obscures the lines of connection — and responsibility — linking our everyday acts to their real-world consequences, making it easy for us to overlook the coal-fired power plant that lights our computer screen, or the mountaintop that had to be destroyed to provide the coal to that plant, or the streams running crimson with heavy metals as a result. Specialists ourselves, we can no longer imagine anyone but an expert, or anything but a new technology or law, solving our problems. As the closing credits roll out at the end of “An Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore asks of us only that we change our light bulbs, because he probably can’t imagine us doing anything much more challenging, like, say, growing some portion of our own food.
The reasons not to act are many and compelling. But here are a few reasons that we might put on the other side of the scale:
If we do act, we will set an example for other people. If enough other people act, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. (Just look at the market for hybrid cars.) Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving a gas-guzzler or setting the at AC at 15C might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries.
How do you know you have it right!
Deciding to take responsibility for one’s consumption choices is only the first step in minimizing our carbon footprint. While the implications of some choices are fairly well evaluated – like using less electrical power from the grid; for others, the information is, at best, incomplete, and at worst, misleading and confusing!
What to buy!
The past few years have seen an explosion of green marketing. While this has made available to the consumer more choices, consumers may find themselves perplexed by how to gauge the environmental impact of the many products that claim to be eco-friendly. For one, as of now, it is very difficult to evaluate the claims of products that say they are biodegradable, carbon neutral or made from sustainable materials. Even if one were to take the green-claims of the various manufacturers at face value, there are still many processes whose Carbon footprint implications cannot be clearly evaluated. Is eating local or walking to work really going to reduce my carbon footprint? According to one analysis, if walking to work increases your appetite and you consume more meat or milk as a result, walking might actually emit more carbon than driving.
Perfect knowledge, that takes into account the sourcing of the raw materials, the manufacturing process, the transportation involved, and the final disposal, is many years away. The best we can do for now, is to make informed choice with the limited information we have and to realize that instead of buying three pairs of organic cotton jeans, it is better to buy just one pair, and even better to make do with our existing pair of ordinary jeans
How much to buy!
Conspicuous consumption is a significant part of the Global Warming problem. Therefore, it doesn’t require too much intelligence to hypothesize thus: it is a misconception that by buying anything, whether Green or not, we are solving the problem.
Environmentalists say some products marketed as green may pump more carbon into the atmosphere than choosing something more modest, or simply nothing at all. Coming back to an earlier point – instead of buying three pairs of organic cotton jeans, it is better to buy just one pair, and even better to make do with our existing pair of ordinary jeans
This section of NO2CO2 will try to present and evaluate “Minimizing” options. We strive to stay up to date with current technological developments, be as fair as possible while evaluating different options and state up-front if any issues are unresolved. Any errors of judgments or facts is completely unintentional and we will be very happy to be corrected.