Yesterday’s climate strike was a worthwhile exercise, at least in raising awareness of the issue. But not a lot stopped (confession: I was on my way down to the Scarborough Jazz Festival). There will be plenty more opportunities of course. What must be said is that real shockwaves would be felt by particularly western governments if there was a consumer strike. This might involve, e.g. no more flying, not replacing the car, not buying clothes for a couple of years, going vegan. Doing this on a mass scale would save people a lot of money, but also put millions out of work (although I can see opportunities here for service industries). So it won’t happen—it doesn’t fit the growth-led economic model governments rely on to stay in power. That I’m afraid sums up their lack of imagination. It would be far easier to address the issues raised by a consumer strike than it will be to deal with the consequences of climate change. Some people predict the Brexit economic impact on the UK economy could be a minus 5% on economic growth. Could be a good thing if it reduces carbon emissions . .
But there won’t be a consumer strike. Fed on a daily diet of buy, buy, buy and adverts which portray ever happy people in photoshopped bliss (which reminds me of the Jehovah’s Witnesses portrayal of heaven, albeit without cars) the addiction to consumerism is hard to resist by ordinary mortals.
Thinking of a plausible, and technologically possible shift to a low or no carbon economy would necessarily require us to slow down a bit. One example—long distance flying. Instead of pouring their spare cash into space tourism projects for their fellow billionaires, Branson and Musk would do everyone a favour if they invested in new, large sailing ships. Perhaps with battery powered stabilisers. Sailing ships?! How backward! But how else can we follow in Greta’s footsteps? Such ships could be at sea within a very short timescale, and I bet they would be very popular. Airships too for that matter—contrary to opinion, they had a good safety record. We can all recall the photos of the Hindenburg crashing in flames, and we can all remember the same happening to Concorde. There were no survivors of the latter, on the former there were 97 people—and two thirds of them survived. So the message is: slow down!
It would be easy enough for governments to legislate to slow things down. But in the absence of such laws, individual action on climate change will often seem pointless when so many others are still wedded to unsustainable consumption. How is it that cars are getting bigger - on Britain's roads? There is no law of physics that I'm aware of which states that cars have to get bigger. When everyday you see utterly useless developments taking place, in effect mandated by government, where's the incentive to change?
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