Sep 15, 2019

Scaling environmentalism

From a review of Tatiana Schlossberg’s Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impacts You Don’t Know You Have:

For 10 or 15 years beginning in the 1990s consumer-driven environmentalism was a constant refrain, leading to endless disputations about paper towels and disposable diapers versus sponges and cotton nappies. When I picked up this book, I feared it might go down the same cul-de-sacs, but it doesn’t, and for the obvious reason: That earlier campaign was essentially useless. Some fairly small percentage of people read those books, and an even smaller percentage took regular and clear action. Those people are morally consistent heroes whom we should all salute, but it turns out there are not enough of them to make a difference….

The changes we make in our transportation lives will matter mostly if we make them “as a collective.” That is to say, instead of trying to figure out every single aspect of our lives, a carbon tax would have the effect of informing every one of those decisions, automatically and invisibly. The fuel efficiency standards that the Obama administration put forward and Trump is now gutting would result in stunningly different outcomes. And so on….

We aren’t going to solve our problems one consumer at a time. We’re going to need to do it as societies and civilizations, or not at all.

Read more here.