I don’t care if the concept of carbon footprint was invented by a BP or whoever. I don’t care if it was invented to shame us into focusing on our own personal actions as the problem.
It’s our job as critical-thinking humans to understand that both personal and systemic action are needed.
Think about it: The consumption-entrenched governments and corporations of course want to distract us away from pushing for systemic change, so we will be forced (by the overpowering weight of the dysfunctional system) to keep consuming. They want to keep us dependent. So they don’t want system change.
And yet, because of how the system is, it’s very diehard-difficult for those of us who really want to make extreme voluntary personal reductions, to do so. You kind of have to be hard-core. I see myself (with my bicycle and my rain tubs and my uberlow electricity consumption and my voluntary low income etc.) as sort of an experimental lab-rat or shock troops or point person for the middle of the green bell curve.
By middle of the bell curve I mean the genuinely greenminded masses who really WANT to make change but are overwhelmed by the systemic barriers. Plus, the middle of the bell curve also includes the large swath of the population who are not particularly interested in eco-conscious living, but will be automatically living in a more eco-friendly manner as the systemic shifts take place. (As a real life, right-now example, your basic citizen of the UK or Spain etc. has a much much lower footprint than your basic citizen of the USA, all other things remaining the same. Because the default systems in Europe or Japan or Singapore etc. do not enable/force an everyday lifestyle of massive consumption as much as those in the USA. Just one example we can all recognize, the difference in transportation systems between the USA and the other places mentioned.)
Once we tip the balance on the systemic barriers, once we even make a tiny crack in it, the massive green tide will be unstoppable.
What I keep telling people is that our personal actions still DO matter – not in the tiny additive sense, but in the multiplicative or even exponential sense of social influence. I always ask myself and other green minded people, what are we normalizing today by our personal choices?
Fellow Boomers posting on social media about their robber-baron level of decadent travel vacations are broadcast-legitimizing consumerist travel gluttony. We deep-green troops need to do the same for legitimizing walking & cycling & public transport; finding joy in our local areas.
It’s not a matter of pushing for systemic change versus what we do in our everyday lives. Because when those things don’t match, we look like a bunch of hypocrites and no wonder people don’t respect environmentalists.
I’m really done seeing so-called green liberal people drive everywhere, live in huge airconditioned houses, hang on tight to their Wall Street funds, gush with pride when their grandkids join the military-industrial complex, etc. We have the resources; it’s on us to turn the tide.
I always say everything you do makes a difference. Do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up over what you can’t do. And, we can all help normalize anti-destructive choices by sharing a social media post about a beautiful forest, a charming DIY upcycled skirt, a food garden, etc.
Or as Dominique puts it in today’s Antiracism Daily, “While individual solutions can’t fix systemic problems, a mass societal shift in our habits and values can create pressure and change on industries and governments to enact sizable change.”
PS. As I mentioned in my book and have often mentioned elsewhere in this blog: One huge motivation to reduce one’s consumption is that said reductions can have a huge impact on us personally. For example, it can save lots of money. And it can simplify life, allowing us to slow down and relax more and appreciate the here and now. All of which makes a huge difference on each of our individual lives, even if it doesn’t make a huge difference in the planetary scheme of things.
• “My carbon footprint is broken”; YouTube video by Kurtis Baute. The very engaging narrator gives a good overview of their household footprint, and what we greenminded people are up against as we strive to reduce our footprint. (It’s still a worthy battle though, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.) I will be watching other videos in his channel too, because he’s really good at explaining things in a commonsense and compassionate way.