Dear climate activists

climate activists memeI don’t know much about Josh except that, judging by this meme which appeared on social media recently, his heart is in the right place. His meme encourages us not to blame humanity at large for the actions of some smaller part of the world’s population. He’s on the right track in saying that, but he doesn’t quite reach his destination. Let’s see if we can do better.

destroying the planet

Last time I looked, the planet was still mooching along in its orbit.

The seas and mountains were all still there, most of the rivers were functioning normally, the deserts were still sandy. Go back a thousand years, it would have looked much the same. Go forward a thousand years, it will still look much the same.

From a distance, anyway.

Up close, we would notice some fairly serious changes. Not to the planet, but to how much life, and what kinds of life, it can support. We’re destroying, corrupting, polluting, trashing the biosphere, that thin skin of life between the planet’s crust and the endless darkness of the interstellar void. Biosphere isn’t a good meme word, though, so environment may have to do.

and causing climate change

Indeed. We may not be destroying the planet but we’re certainly causing climate change. How? Mostly by burning fossil fuels.

Identify the real enemy

Good idea! But beliefs, philosophies, economic theories, isms of any kind, are not the enemy. They are justifications (good or bad, right or wrong) for actions of people. Actions do the damage but actions don’t do themselves. People do the damage.

“humans”

The word humans distances us from the perpetrators because we don’t often think of ourselves as humans. We’re people, aren’t we? Let’s keep it real by using the best word.

Indigenous Amazonians … kids in Africa

Quite right. Nor rice farmers in Thailand or fishermen in Kerala.

Who, then? The people who burn (the most) fossil fuels. The people who consume the most resources. (The more we spend, the more damage we’re doing.)

Who are they, then? Americans, Australians, Belgians, Canadians, English, French, Germans, Israelis, Japanese, Kiwis, Norwegians, Swiss, Taiwanese…

In two words, rich people. In one word, us.

If we’re not honest about this we will always be inclined to see those problematic “humans” as “other” – not ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our workmates.

And unfortunately we as individuals contribute to the problem, merely by living in an affluent society (see How can I decarbonise my life for more on that) so we really can’t exclude ourselves, however hard we work for the cause.

Okay, I think we’re ready for an improved meme.

climate activists meme
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