Let’s stop “othering” China and other “big bad polluters”

We environmentalists have a sad habit of wanting to “other” other countries, as well as the petroleum industry etc. A lot of my fellow environmentalists like to share memes about how China is a big bad polluter and so on.

I guess it’s sort of human nature, to not want to face up to the pain. We care passionately about the environment, ecosystems, fellow creatures — and the idea that we are causing so much damage just by trying to get our daily needs met is very painful.

But the good news is it doesn’t have to be that way; that’s my basic message in my book and blog and other platforms.

And: Finger-pointing doesn’t solve things. What does help start to get the solution happening, is looking in the mirror; looking at what we ourselves can do.

And regarding China: We are all connected. A lot of China’s pollution comes from USA consumer demand. Also if it’s pollution per capita, USA probably tops the list, or close to it.

World Population Review offers a useful graphic representation of countries’ footprints from a per capita standpoint:


The positive flipside is that our country (USA, and also places with certain similarities of lifestyle such as Canada and Australia) has a lot of power to make change for the better if we put our attention in that direction.

That applies particularly to us Boomers, with our spending power and the sheer numbers of us.

Note, certain petro-intensive economies such as Qatar, Dubai in the UAE do have a higher per capita footprint than USA but they are the rare exception.

Would you like to know your personal footprint and get some tips and inspiration for reducing? Footprint Calculator is a page I’ve been using for awhile to keep rough track of my personal footprint:


My footprint seems to vary a lot between 0.6 earths and 1.5 earths depending on how I calculate my household size, and how much local food I’m eating that week.

But of course, personal changes are no substitute for activism, and I will always be an ACTIVIST first, pushing for policies and infrastructure that support/allow sustainable practices among the general population. It’s no good if I’m living comfortably and happily with my thrifty lifestyle, but other people do not have the same access and opportunities. If it’s not healthy and equitable for all of us, it’s not healthy for the planet.

To get back to the original header of this post: We need to stop othering China and other so-called “big bad polluters.” And instead, if we really want to get to the roots of change, we need to first look in the mirror. LITM!!