Sunday, 2 July 2017

How to be a moral actor on climate change

Clear the air: Individual action in itself is not enough, corporate action or system-scale action to mitigate and adapt to climate change is needed. And yet, 'what is the ocean but a multitude of drops?' - every bit of energy left unused (Carbon left unreleased) is a gain, every bit wasted is a loss. 

Some people I know have complex relations with climate change action. They want to be 'good' about it, often for the sake of their own children, but also in a more general context, for the avoidance of harm to unknown others. (Are we all not siblings?)

There is no obligation for any given individual to act such as to reduce their carbon impact. This is and will always be a personal choice. It is essential that individuals are allowed to retain the right to their own opinions, regardless of our personal opinions of their opinions.

If you are one of those people who believe, or, more generally 'feel' that it is right for you to at least try to make an effort on the side of not making things worse than they already are, then you may, like the aforementioned friends, want to know what is a good way to act, what are the useful actions, and which the 'greenwash'. For you, here is a list of suggestions:

1.1  Buy less stuff.
1.2  Buy less plastic stuff.
1.3  Avoid buying c**p.
1.4  Educate yourself on which necessary products and goods are more or less environmentally sound. Product labels do not tell the whole story, but can sometimes help.
Summary: Be a mindful consumer.

2.1  Waste less stuff.
2.2  Try to get the full use out of a product, rather than replacing it for fashion, vanity or victim-consumer habits. Stuff does wear out, some quicker than others (see 1, above). It's okay to replace stuff, but a new computer, phone or tv every years or so is NOT necessary in most cases.
2.3  When you get stuff, if you spend wisely, you can the spend your time appreciating the stuff you have, rather than worrying about what you don't have. Example: I recently bought a classical guitar. I spent more on it that I possibly should. However, it will cherish it until my dying day, it will always be as good as any guitar I could have bought, and it will return its cost in both value and utility for as long as I could want. 
2.4  Instead of throwing away stuff you don't need or want any more, but which is still useable, try giving it away, or selling it. This allows the carbon cost of a product to be spread over a longer period, avoids material wastage, and allows other people to share the pleasure you once had when the thing was new to you.

Summary: waste is a state of mind, which is often careless, thoughtless. Be a mindful chucker-out of stuff.

3.1  Try to learn how to fix, repair, maintain or care for the stuff you have. Even keeping some things clean can extend their life by months, even years. Two generations ago, every poor bachelor or young woman was taught how to sew, stitch, make do and mend.

3.2  There are things which can no longer serve their original purpose. This does not mean they are useless. Some things can be repurposed, adapted, adjusted or slightly altered to suit another purpose. When something 'breaks', think about what alternative use it might have. Example: a Wellington boot with a hole in it is not much use as a Wellington boot, but makes a useful 'plant pot'.

Summary: the longer that stuff has an utility, the less waste there is, and the less need there is to use up even more resources. be creative.

4.1  Don't beat yourself up for what you can't change. 
4.2  If you do even a little bit of the stuff above, which is only a starter list, then you are 'doing good'. 
4.3  You have a carbon footprint. Get over it. It is commensurate with your lifestyle, occupation, the world around you as it is, and other things. You can't eliminate it completely, but you can make it earn its place.

Summary: You don't have to live in a cave to do something good. Every small effort is a net good in itself, and the avoidance of a net bad - a double-win.

Final thoughts: If you want to be a moral actor in a modern world, you mainly need to be more thoughtful and less lazy about your actions, choices and decisions. It's mostly a state of mind which needs to change to get into 'better' habits. Is it worth it? You are one of seven billion. If a small percentage of the people who say they want a change in attitude did some of the above, and other things, this would, in collective consequence, represent a revolution. It would change the markets, undermine the worst excesses of the corporate system, and cause a reconsideration of the relationship between people and stuff.

This is a taster. There's a million more things to be offered, but let's start easy.