Consumers; key to helping the planet…

The doorbell rang. It was a group of political activists canvassing for this week’s EU elections. When the Badger opened the door, they immediately launched into a climate change pitch with phrases like ‘they haven’t done this’, and ‘they need to do that’. The frequent use of ‘they’ grated. They didn’t complete their pitch because the Badger terminated the conversation politely.

Surely dealing with climate issues starts with ourselves and not ‘they’ or someone else? After all, it’s us as consumers that are at the heart of many of the issues given the relentless acceleration of consumerism and technological advancement over the last 100 years. A good look at Oxford University’s ‘Our World In Data’ shows an obvious correlation between the accelerating consumerism, technological advancement and global temperature and rising CO2 emissions over the same period. So if each of us becomes just a bit less of a consumer then it helps address our planet’s challenges.

Technological progress over the Badger’s lifetime has been extraordinary, as neatly illustrated by the data available here and here. In the 1970s colour TVs were a luxury and had bulky cathode ray tubes, mainstream motor cars functioned without electronics, a fixed-line telephone did not exist in every home, and computers were the realm of big companies or public institutions. Today’s TVs are ‘smart’ and thin, cars don’t function without electronics, every person has a mobile telephone, and powerful personal computing devices are the norm. Such progress has been driven by Innovation (especially in the realm of electronics, communications, information storage and processing), Big Business, Consumers, and Oil.

The Badgers point is this. Consumers – you and me – are the most important of these drivers. Why? Because our habits and behaviour matters to the planet and ultimately influences the positions taken by business and governments. What you do matters. So next time you want a gadget of some kind, ask yourself if you really need it. If you don’t need it then don’t buy it. You’ll have helped the planet!

After the canvassers had gone the Badger went to the local supermarket and was astonished to see it as selling a plastic ring to keep an egg perfectly round when being fried. Why does such a product even exist? Does it serve a real need? Doubtful. Fortunately, it didn’t look as if any had been sold, which suggests us consumers are getting less fickle so there’s hope for the planet yet. We’re all consumers, but just because we can buy something doesn’t mean we should!

The Badger’s now looking forward to having this kind of discussion with the next group of political canvassers that come knocking on the door, if they’re brave enough of course.

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