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Individual vs collective: Are you responsible for fixing climate change?

individual vs collective responsibility for climate action man riding bike

The other day I saw a tweet that had escaped its platform of birth to become a Facebook meme. I can’t find it, but it said something like:

“Can we all please stop acting like ordinary people are to blame for climate change because we won’t take 5 minute showers and go vegan, and not the corporations that make billions from destroying the planet”.

I think this neatly gets to the crux of something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Individual vs collective responsibility for climate action.

Individual action is important

We all need to take responsibility for climate change and take action in our own lives. In fact, it’s hypercritical to demand change unless we do so. Climate change is a big problem, but we can solve it by all doing our bit for the planet, by making small everyday choices.

Do you agree? This a very prevalent view, maybe the most prevalent view on climate change. We’re all to blame and being green is a worthy lifestyle choice.

In the rest of this post I’m going to explain why I’m not keen on this framing. But first we’re going to discuss what’s right about it.

This view does have some merit, let’s be fair. Everyone does contribute to climate change and so we all hold some responsibility, and some power. Many people actually find that very empowering, and I can see why.

Our individual choices do matter.

It’s easy to see little things like buying organic vegetables, using a reusable coffee cup, biking to work, taking shorter showers, taking your own bags to the store and buying recycled paper as so trivial that they won’t make a difference.

But sustainable lifestyle choices do make a difference in the following ways:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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