Does It Matter?

Is there a rainbow at the end of this story?

This is my 15th post.  My first one (Why?) was on January 1, 2019 and I decided I would take personal steps to lessen my impact on the destruction of our planet?  A big part of my efforts include becoming better educated on things that I do that affect the planet.  Since that time, I’ve:

  • Begun to incorporate environmental issues into my choices of which companies with which I  do business (Fast Food Packaging, Local Sourcing, Those Were The Days);
  • Reduced my personal consumption of red meat, thus reducing CO2 emissions (Less Beef, Less Carbon, No Red Meat?);
  • Reduced my personal consumption of plastics, reducing garbage and saving energy (Single-Use Plastic, On the Beach);
  • Reduced my purchasing of non-essential things, reducing energy (Too Much Stuff, Mardi Gras);
  • Reduced my personal consumption of energy (Turn Out The Lights, I Get Around); and
  • Contributed to the production of more trees, removing more CO2  (Earth Day, 2019).

Several people have told me they have similarly decided to take steps along these lines, and that has been very encouraging and rewarding.  Thank you.  And all these efforts have a multiplying effect – I do more, others do more, children learn and follow these examples, society recognizes the need to do better, etc.  And the world is saved!  Oh, if it were only that simple.  But it is a start that many individuals have embraced and the list keeps growing.  

But these actions raise an important question.  Can the collective actions of individuals like me really impact the direction in which our planet is headed, relative to climate change?  Or are we in a doomsday scenario since a relatively small number of companies are responsible for the production of most of the CO2?  Is there a rainbow at the end of this story? A valid question! 

Richard Heede, co-founder and co-director of the Climate Accountability Institute addressed that question in an October, 2018 interview, shortly after the United Nations released its most recent report on climate change.  In that interview, he made some interesting observations:

  • Consumers (and households) could easily reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by being more energy efficient;
  • And while 70% of CO2  emissions can be traced back to the 100 largest oil, gas, and coal companies, their production of those products accounts for only 10% of those emissions; 90% of those emissions are from their products which are consumed by us, the consumers that actually burn and demand the fuels that these companies provide. 

Heede also points out energy producing companies can certainly do more – e.g., become part of solutions instead of obstructing and denying the problem.  Shareholders can do more by holding companies more accountable.  Victims can do more by litigating against parties responsible for climate change.  And political leaders can institute environmentally friendly policies, if they are influenced by their constituents. 

In short, there is a lot that can be done and it will take a collective approach to solve our climate problem.  Heede argues: “There is some personal satisfaction in doing right by ourselves as well as our grandchildren. We can’t solve the problem by ourselves, but it would be a morally better choice to attempt to do something and derive satisfaction by it, rather than saying, “My carbon savings don’t matter.” Because they do matter! They matter symbolically. They matter financially. They matter morally. They matter to your neighbors.”

The recent movie Bohemia Rhapsody reminded me of the song of the same title in which the subject is lamenting over his ill-advised actions (… just killed a man) and near the end of the song concludes “nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me”.  Well, he’s right.  Once the deed is done, and there’s no going back, then nothing really matters any more.  But relative to our planet, the end isn’t here yet; the deed isn’t done yet; it’s not too late; and we can make changes that will matter.  I believe what I do matters.  I hope others agree.

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