With the latest reports on climate change making it clear that we are in trouble and it is the fault of our species, there’s a lot of misery and powerlessness floating about online. Other People aren’t going to listen. Other People won’t act. Governments won’t do anything and too many Other People don’t care, or disbelieve or refuse to live differently. You know who the Other People are – they’re the ones with the real power, whose actions make a genuine difference.
What this does, between the gloom and doom and the idea that only someone else can fix it, is keep us in that most dangerous of mind sets: Keeping calm and carrying on. That is suicide.
So let’s take a case in point. Disposable plastic shopping bags are not necessary, we know this because for most of history, people managed perfectly well without them. That’s a huge resource outlay to make something we use for perhaps an hour or two and then throw away. Plastic tortures and slaughters wildlife in hideous ways, and if you’ve been online for more than a week the odds are you’ve seen photos of a creature hideously bound by plastic and suffering dreadfully.
We could entirely eliminate the use of plastic bags. We don’t need government action. We don’t need the supermarkets to do anything different. All we have to do is stop using them. It really is that simple. Get a bag you can re-use, take it shopping with you, re-use it. A huge environmental problem will simply go away. (Then we just have the tidy up to contend with).
And the thing is, all the bags you don’t use and throw away are part of the solution. This is true across the board. If we all used a bit less electric, wasted a bit less food, drove a bit less, recycled a bit more, reused a few things, kept something out of landfill by some responsible means, the effect would be vast. How much power could we save, how much could we keep out of landfill and how much better would our collective relationship with the planet be if we all did a few small things? We could turn this whole thing around just with individual action.
I do not think governments have the will or the courage to tackle climate change. I do not believe big business gives a shit. However, that’s a tiny minority of human life. If the rest of us start making small changes and trust that those changes are worth something, we can turn the tide. If we all stop with the plastic bags, the supermarkets will give up handing them out, and will stop buying them, demand dries up, supply ceases. We could do that with pretty much anything if enough of us gave it a go.
I’m not a big fan of market economy, but on the plus side it is really vulnerable. Take away demand, refuse to demand, and supply has to quit. We can force suicidal and unsustainable business out of the market, just by not engaging with it. That means being really suspicious about anything claiming to be free and easy. We will be paying for it; in truth, we just don’t get to find out what the price tag is. We pay for it in damage to our habitat and risk to our lives, and that’s a bloody expensive outlay for something you only wanted to use once and throw away.