Beyond Lightbulbs and Shorter Showers
Clara Changxin Fang recently gave a talk at the New York State Sustainability Conference. In a well-reasoned, carefully presented, well supported presentation, she stuck her finger right in the eye of the traditional environmentalist. She means no harm, rather her talk helps to refocus people concerned about the climate and the environment. She wants them to see a more effective path forward.
Clara published the talk on her blog, Residence on Earth. She writes:
Instead of organized political resistance, protecting the right of future generations to have a livable planet became a matter of individual lifestyle choices. The rhetoric from environmental and government institutions became, the planet is dying because individuals are making unsustainable
consumer choices. So what if the majority of the country lacks convenient mass transit? You can buy a hybrid car! Or, our industrial agricultural system is ruining our land, water, and atmosphere, but you can buy local and organic. In this manner the sustainable lifestyle becomes the domain of the elite, a way for the wealthy to ease their guilt and feel protected from the problems that are making the planet an increasingly hostile place to live. Instead of regulating pollution from industry and building sustainable communities, we are told that we should buy greener products.
Not only does this approach ignore the source of the problem, it doesn’t work. The reason is that the vast majority of environmental impact is the result of industrial activities, and individual actions do not address the incentives and structures that created the problem. Let me provide a few examples:
She then goes on to give excellent examples. I encourage you to read the whole piece for yourself. When it comes to sustainability, we need to celebrate past efforts and successes and up our game.