Guy, a retired German teacher in France, says we need to be much more radical to combat climate change, and be fairer as well. Read his intriguing thoughts here.
The list of the threats to the environment is very long.
The one thing, we pay the most attention to, is of course the global warming, but there are beyond that also the problems of air pollution (nitrogen dioxide, fine particles…), of groundwater and ocean pollution, the extinction of insects and of certain animal species, the plundering of resources, and so on.
There are many causes, but it is undeniable that most of these problems are due to the over-consumption patterns of industrialized nations, of which we are in a prominent position.
I don’t want to be a defeatist, but I am personally quite pessimistic about our chances to change the further course of things.
Some people bet on technical progress to solve problems. We can certainly expect some solutions in the field of the sustainable energy production, but I am convinced that science and progress alone will not be enough to solve the problems in a sustainable way. Some geo-engineering projects are in this respect not very promising or even foolish. Most of the time, they are projects, which aim to store CO2 or to reduce solar radiation on earth.
I think, the key to the problem is a radical change of our production and consumption patterns. In my opinion, these changes imply taking into account the social dimension induced by the adoption of sustainable production methods. And this is the very stumbling block: these changes, which lead to sacrifices, must be made in a fair way.
With regards to the global warming for example, I believe there are no other solutions than we drastically reduce the CO2 emissions from air and road traffic. The question is how to achieve this reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. By adopting a significant carbon tax – and not a ridiculous one like the carbon tax which was newly decided in Germany (10€ per ton CO2) – this could mean that rich people could continue flying, whereas most of poor people must sacrifice. Just like the increase of the diesel taxes had a greater impact on the budgets of the poorest part of the population in France. We know the consequences: the yellow vest crisis. So, this is an essential question. But how can we reply this question?
The issue of sustainable agriculture and the question of excessive consumption of meat, which have too disastrous consequences for the climate, are raised in the same terms in my eyes.
The question of equality with regards to the change of our production and consumption patterns implies for me a redistribution of wealth. Rich people must give up part of their wealth to the most modest. The problem is that for most people, the rich one is the other one. In this respect, it is very interesting to know which level of income and wealth is located within a country.
I think it is naive to believe it could be enough to tax the very high incomes more so that, for example, everyone, and not just the wealthiest among us, can eat products from organic farming, while ensuring a decent income for producers.
The next step is the question of equality with regards of the whole world. If we are aware that only 3% of the world population fly today, that thus 97% of the global population doesn’t fly and are so not responsible for the kerosene pollution, the answer is clear: all of these 3% of the world population the richest and the most “modest” of them have to abandon partially and perhaps completely flying, at least for leisure.
I know, most people will argue that mobility is fundamental right and that it would be liberticidal to want to put a brake on their right to mobility. But does it mean that it is a fundamental right for a minority of wealthy people in the world to contribute to global warming and to the destruction of the living environments of a majority of the current and future population?
Who is now willing to sacrifice?
Will the “Friday for future” generation sacrifice more easily than our generation? If Internet were a country, it would rank sixth on the list of the countries with the biggest carbon footprint. When we know how addicted to social networks and screens this young generation is, we can be doubtful/sceptical whether they will have at the end a better carbon footprint than us. Not to mention the other aspects of their way of life (clothing, housing, …)
The consequences of the global warming and of our production patterns will probably have to be more painful for us so that we will accept to radically change our way of life. Until then, unfortunately, it is the poorest people in the world who will have suffered the consequences.