At this moment of Epiphany 2019 we are in the midst of a climate crisis. Finally, most people have stopped denying that the climate is changing because of human activity, but there are different approaches as to how to respond to the crisis. The UN and 15 year old Swedish activist Greta Thurnberg have pointed out that eliminating or greatly reducing meat and dairy from our diet and restricting air travel to emergencies would make a huge difference. This is something each of us could do, but the uptake on such ideas is slow.
Recently I saw a tweet from a scientist who proposed that “there is nothing wrong with making individual low-carbon choices,” but suggested that there are problems with emphasizing individual lifestyle over collective action. It seems to me that, not only is there “nothing wrong,” there is also a lot that is right about people making lifestyle changes. It is something that has a ripple effect. And when people choose not to fly there is a reduction in the number of planes that will fly, because the airline industry runs a tight margin and they frequently cancel flights. It’s not the case that the plane is going anyway.
Thurnberg points out that her generation will only fly in emergencies because previous generations have used up the carbon quota of the young. She also suggests that action is important because hope depends on action. My counsellor friends tell me that these days there are unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression in children and youth. Maybe the inaction of older generations contributes to a sense of hopelessness in young people.
We will all feel more hopeful when we make changes in our lifestyle to take care of our planet. And, in my first post two years ago, Staying Home, I noted that there are real advantages in spending less time in the air.
Certainly it’s true that we should take collective action to put pressure on government and industry to take big steps to reduce climate change. When that happens, we are all going to have to make personal lifestyle changes — so why not start now? There will be no prizes for being a late adopter and in the meantime our individual lifestyle changes will be helpful.
It may be comfortable to turn a blind eye to the damage caused by our consumption of meat and dairy and our addiction to airplane travel, but it’s dangerous. It’s time for a collective epiphany. It’s time to see the light.