Who’s to blame for climate change?
global warming is like the obesity epidemic. let’s stop blaming individuals and start blaming the companies whose profits depend on it.
— mark haddon (@mark_haddon) May 18, 2015
This tweet flashed across my feed on Monday – retweeted by the Guardian Environment no less – and it immediately made me bridle.
For a start, it smacks of a straw man argument. Who is ‘blaming’ individuals solely for climate change? Who isn’t ‘blaming’ companies at all for climate change? I have never heard either view expressed by any sensible commentator.
Secondly, I don’t like anybody absolving or blaming anyone else 100% for climate change (or obesity for that matter). Our consumer society is a cycle between production and consumption – you can’t have one without the other.
I can choose to cycle to the shops or work rather than drive. I can decide to spend money insulating my loft. I can buy fresh food rather than processed food. I can buy healthy food or fat/sugar/salt infused crap. I can decide where I go on holiday. I can choose when to upgrade my phone. I have choice over a huge chunk of my carbon footprint. I take the idea that I am a hapless cog in a machine built by evil capitalists as a personal insult.
We also need business and Governments to step up and provide sustainable products and services. After all, the scope of my freedoms above are determined by the choice on offer – and my ability to choose is limited by the visibility I have of the cradle-to-grave impacts of those choices. They have a moral obligation to sort out as many of these problems as they can. We need a virtuous cycle of consumer/voter choices and sustainable options to choose from.
Thirdly, the tweet is dangerous as it encourages people to point the finger and do nothing. As Ross Perot put it “The activist is not the person who says the river is dirty. The activist is the guy who cleans up the river.”
So let’s stop this kind of silliness and get on with the job in hand.