In Defense of Eco-Hypocrisy, Again
We don't have time for purity tests.
Michael / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Delete this garbage treehugger." That's what one commenter said the last time I tried to discuss modern environmentalism's excessive focus on personal responsibility. Indeed, from my original defense of eco-hypocrisy to calling out those who call others out, I feel like much of my writing here at Treehugger has been on this topic.
I'm deeply concerned that we'll reach a point of no return on the climate crisis, and a subset of environmentalists—those who are obsessively focused on personal footprints and individual responsibility—will be hidden away in an off-grid yurt, congratulating themselves on not having caused it. Failing to recognize, of course, that they also didn't stop it:
A crackly voice comes in over the hand-crank, solar radio telling them that all is finally and irrevocably lost.
“It’s not our fault," says one, patting their friend gently and reassuringly on the back.
“True...” nods another.
There's nothing wrong with living lighter on the planet. Indeed, I regularly make efforts to reduce my personal footprint. I am just not convinced we should spend too much time talking about it. In a world where unsustainable choices are the default option, where fossil fuels are excessively subsidized, and where environmental costs are not borne by those responsible for the damage, living a truly sustainable life means swimming upstream.
Even the very notion of “personal carbon footprinting” — meaning an effort to accurately quantify the emissions we create when we drive our cars or power our homes — was first popularized by none other than oil giant BP, who launched one of the first personal carbon footprint calculators as part of their “Beyond Petroleum” rebranding effort in the mid-2000s.