The prevention of climate change is not just a personal matter

The response to climate change, has for so long, rested on individual actions to effect collective results. Put simply, do your recycling and get a keep cup. Don’t get me wrong, keep cups are cool and it is genuinely heart-warming to see so many on campus. However, their recent influx is taking place in a system that renders them impotent.

The story of western capitalism is an economic model founded upon endless expansion and profit. Humans are incapable of fully conceiving the idea of infinity. Our lives are constructed around numbers and limits. The grains of sand on a beach or the blades of grass in a field are uncountable, sure, but they are finite. There is a number that could be found if searched hard enough.

Capitalism has no such limits. The system runs on yearly increasing profit. This must have been terribly exciting for the west in a time where the world was flat, the edges of the map yet to be filled in. By all accounts, we should know better now. Our planet is round. Our resources are limited. Our time is up.

Yet, we are clinging to a model that has no regard for the ecological cost, any more than it does the human cost. We are entrusting the decision-making of the West’s leading economy to a man who has his own airline, his own skyscraper, and who will likely not have to live through the worst of the consequences. Is it any wonder he is a climate change denier? It really isn’t in his interests to be anything else.

Of course, it is the prerogative of governments and big companies to place the impetus of change on the individual. If us ‘proles’ were all vegetarian or vegan, if we biked everywhere or threw out our cars (or better yet recycled them), if we stopped using straws or if we stopped farting methane into the atmosphere, maybe, maybe we could save the planet. But heaven forbid the systems that keep us consuming a four-planet lifestyle change.

I do not doubt that there are benefits in attempting to live a more ethical life, and individuals pulling their weight to reduce their carbon footprint is undeniably a good thing. But is it enough? Will your car emissions really compete with that of a factory? Will your abstinence from chicken take it off the shelves? I can only commend (and encourage) those who make sacrifices to improve the state of the planet, but it is time to think bigger. It is time for businesses and politicians to recognise a change needs to come, not in the way we live our lives but in the context we live them in. We must temper the greed of our economic system with care for our ecological system. We must take this fight higher and further than it has gone before.

We can all do our bit to heal the Earth, but our individual impact will always be limited. It is a badly kept secret that the two most sustainable things we can do for the planet are (a) not have children and (b) eat our pets. That’s right, ironically, the best thing you can do to ensure a world safe for your future kids to live in is to not have them in the first place. To deflect blame for the ongoing destruction of the planet, it is surprising the ruling classes haven’t advocated both already.

It is the Big Man’s turn to be held accountable for climate change, and he will hate it. Just do your recycling and hope for the best. It is the system that needs to change far more than we do.

Image: TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay

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