Collective action

Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals

The email in my inbox last week offered thirty suggestions to green my office space: use reusable pens, redecorate with light colours, stop using the elevator.

Back at home, done huffing stairs, I could get on with other options: change my lightbulbs, buy local veggies, purchase eco-appliances, put a solar panel on my roof.

And a study released on Thursday claimed it had figured out the single best way to fight climate change: I could swear off ever having a child.

These pervasive exhortations to individual action — in corporate ads, school textbooks, and the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups, especially in the west — seem as natural as the air we breath. But we could hardly be worse-served.

While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71 percent. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.

One thought on “Collective action”

  1. “Doing my bit” is the cherry on the personal cake – an individual cup cake rather than a slab cake, of course. We know that doing little achieves little and the reward is little. But haven’t we all been sold the idea that reaping great rewards is what life is about? How did this disconnect come about? Could we start turning the tables by rewarding ourselves with heaps of enjoyment through ‘doing our bit’ together instead of on our own? We would soon see that, for the same effort, the rewards are greater and our timidity, when facing up to the mega corporations would disappear.

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