Beware the ‘perfection or nothing’ delusion in Sustainability
Here’s a couple of arguments I’ve heard recently against moves towards a more Sustainable economy:
- Coal is needed for steel manufacture.
- Not everybody can cycle.
- Electric vehicles don’t have enough range for all uses.
While they contain an element of truth, all of these arguments are built on the myth that unless greener options can universally replace the status quo, then they are useless. To take them in turn:
- Yes, it is true that not everybody can cycle, but a large majority of people could cycle, and getting a big chunk of them to do so rather than driving would be a very good thing.
- Likewise, yes, there is no mature steel making technology that doesn’t use coal, but the vast majority of coal is used in non-steel making applications (93% according to some stats). Therefore we can choke off global coal extraction really hard and still have some available for steel.
- On EVs, most vehicle journeys are very short and perfect for EVs. As demand grows, range will increase through technological innovations (remember, the first iPhones had no video).
In all three cases, there is plenty of room for progress before we start bumping up against the (current) limitations of the green option. In truth, the arguments arise from people trying to stay in their comfort zone by clinging to an excuse to do nothing. Don’t indulge them!