Thursday, 3 December 2009

Climate hypocrit alert - me

Hi folks. I am a climate hypocrite, as I suspect we all are. My girlfriend (who is lightly less involved in these issues than me) has wonderfully arranged a surprise trip to New York. This is a big deal, as this sort of thing is not cheap. And I am excited to go, I have never been. But I do feel guilty, very guilty. The carbon! The example! What of all those things I have written about? It has caused a few tears.

Fortunately for me, those who know me are aware that I have never been a fan of hair-shirt environmentalism. Don't get me wrong, I believe we need to reduce consumption, I believe we need to change our lifestyles and I believe that it is not all down to technology. I also believe however that people cannot do it all themselves - because they do not have the power. Individual actions do count, but are in themselves not enough. This is why we need to change the economic andpolitical systems and we need to fundamentally alter the means of production and consumption.If the plane was fuelled by something green and renewable, my carbon guilt would disappear, and my only guilt would be windmill guilt, or whatever the side effect of the new energy source will be. If my plane was taxed so that the money went into investments in new energy, at least that would be better than nothing, and maybe the tickets would have been too much. I have never been one for attacking Al Gore for his flights, or saying that if you don't walk to a protest you are a failure. I can recognise the inherent contradictions in all our behaviours.

As far as I am concerned this is a fight for a better future, the other option is a slow slide into a grim, grounded, impoverished and natureless world. I know which one seems like more of a hair-shirt to me.

But I still feel guilty.


  1. Mushy Pea

    Thanks for being honest. But (just my view of course), wrong decision. Wait till you have kids. You just tightened your fingers around the throat of mine. Next time, no. ok?

    Tell your girlfriend there are people who are looking up to you and being an example is really important right now. It affects far more people than you can ever know.


  2. Hi Mushy Pea, you shouldn't feel so guilty for flying to NY.
    There is a good side to it: the more we fly now the sooner we will run out of fossile fuels, therefore developping new and sustainable sources of energy will be more likely to happen in the near future.
    And to go to NY, you don't really have a choice appart of swimming... it's not like deciding to drive to work or shopping with your car instead of using public transports.

    Harvey B, London

  3. I am a supporter of the green movement. I march, sign petitions, blog and follow developments closely in the news. I also flew from Toronto to Vancouver four days ago to be with my family for Christmas, and in three days I will be flying to Arizona to spend time with my mother-in-law. Family is important to me and this is the only way to nurture this part of my life.

    Flight has become a staple part of modern life and to ignore its use is, in my eyes, implausible and naive. Business is done, economies grow/depend on this business - everything is interlinked now. It simply can not be ignored. I am in full agreeance that the fight for positive change will be from major global players and technology. Individual change is important, but ultimately the infrastructure must be put in place for this change to occur via governments.

    I am appalled by Tom's suggestion that "You just tightened your fingers around the throat of" his kids. Especially considering the care you take in your normal life to stand for environmentalism. It is such radical thoughtlessness that I oppose about the green movements - how about more positive suggestions less guilt?

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. I can see both points of views, and I am still not sure what the right thing is to do....!!!

    Personally I am of the opinion that there is not going to be a an environmental solution which stops people from flying, but there will need to be one which reduces flying, and reduces the damage it causes...I do not think this is beyond us though!

    Cheers, and glad to see people are reading the posts.

  5. Jenn

    I was trying to make a point about the urgency of the situation. I accept I put it clumsily. I was responding to Mushpea's honesty. Making anyone feel guilty is definitely not on my agenda. I just want to save the future for my kids. I took his post to be an offer to help.

    In my part of the world (the South Pacific) children from the smaller islands are being told to study overseas and not bother coming home - because their homes are already awash.

    On the issue of whether I am "too radical", I am a lawyer and cautious by nature, so I constantly wonder myself how I have ended up advocating what frankly would have seemed totally bizarre even to myself ten years ago. But I am in excellent company. Two examples. This advertisement from the British government featuring a child being read a bedtime story:

    Here is the text:

    Dad: There was once a land where the weather was very, very strong. There were awful heat-waves in some parts and in others, terrible storms and floods…
    Scientists said it was being caused by too much CO2, which went up into the sky when the grown-ups used energy. They said the CO2 was getting dangerous, its effects were being seen faster than they thought.
    Some places could even disappear under the sea. And it was the children of the land who’d have to live with the horrible consequences…
    The grown-ups realised they had to do something. They discovered that over 40 per cent of the ‘CO2’ was coming from ordinary everyday things like keeping houses warm and driving car, which meant, if they made less CO2, maybe they could save the land for the children…
    The Father pauses
    Dad: …no more tonight darling.
    Girl: …is there a happy ending?

    Also see Mark Lynas:

    "Do you care about your children? Then stop flying" Independent Sept 2009