"Micro consumerist" and "tokenistic" solutions divert our attention from the pending climate disaster, says George Monbiot.
I consume a lot of news, probably more than is healthy. There are a couple of reasons.
First, it started when I was a kid where, at different times, I delivered the two Detroit papers and a couple of local ones. The imprint stuck forever. And for the last 15 or so years I've been writing for various media outlets and that requires constant reading to stay on top of the issues.
Which brings me to a recent column by George Monbiot in The Guardian, the left-leaning British publication. I enjoy The Guardian's coverage of the environment and social issues, but confess that I don't read it regularly. One can only consume so much news. But the title of Monbiot's column was too good to let pass.
"Capitalism is killing the planet - it's time to stop buying into our own destruction." Click! If the headline didn't convince me to read on, the subhead did.
"Instead of focusing on ‘micro consumerist bollocks’ like ditching our plastic coffee cups, we must challenge the pursuit of wealth and level down, not up," Monbiot wrote. I stopped watching yet another football game and dove in.
It's a long column and I won't go near hitting all of its points, as worthy as they are. But there are a couple of themes that jumped off the page because they've been favorites of mine for years.
The first is our collective obsession with perpetual economic growth. We use it to measure the economic well-being of the country and the world as well as our own well-being. And it's not a politically partisan issue. Growth is good, right? (Remember "greed is good" from the Wall Street movie?). And I suspect Republicans and Democrats would agree.
Here's Monbiot on economic growth. "All the crises we seek to avert today become twice as hard to address as global economic activity doubles, then twice again, then twice again."
The second is personal responsibility. The tendency of many of us to think we're doing our part by recycling or driving a Prius or in the near future, an electric vehicle.
It's time to think differently according to Monbiot. "While you might persuade yourself that you are a green mega-consumer, in reality you are just a mega-consumer," he says.
A perfect example is the move to electric vehicles (EV's) as a climate change solution. New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote last year that the sudden hyper-emphasis on EV's makes a "perfectly reasonable technological hope into overblown hype."
"E.V.s represent a very American answer to climate change: To deal with an expensive, dangerous, extremely resource-intensive machine that has helped bring about the destruction of the planet, let’s all buy this new version, which runs on a different fuel," Manjoo wrote.
Not to mention that President Biden, in pitching his climate plan, made two trips to Detroit to promote EV's, the huge $50,000+ pickup truck type that most of us don't need and can't afford.
Tease alert, Monbiot closes his treatise with a solution that's best explained by him.
Monbiot's piece is a long-read by newspaper column standards but stick with it. It's also likely to take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to examine popular left-leaning thinking.
I'm all in for that.
Chicago-based environmental journalist