There is enormous energy among liberals to solve the climate crisis. The Green New Deal is ambitious and costly, but is seems the left are tired of sacrificing the environment for the economy. I have gripes with the Green New Deal, but I believe its proponents have their heart in the right place. The finger has been pointed at big business, but the corporations are simply responding to consumer demand. By lowering consumption on goods that have high environmental impact we can retake control of the environment.
Liberals have been pretty good on reducing plastic consumption. The movement against plastic water bottles, straws and grocery bags has been a success. Connecticut is even banning plastic bags in 2021. Styrofoam and shipping containers still need to be reduced, but liberals are putting their best effort of this front.
However, I do not see the same effort in reducing carbon emissions. Meat cultivation creates massive amounts of greenhouse gas. The top five meat and dairy producers emit more greenhouse gas than Exxon Mobil. With only five percent of the country and eleven percent of liberals identifying as vegetarian, the movement is not yet widespread. There are a few possible reasons for the low numbers of vegetarians among the supposedly environmentalist liberals. A lack of information could make people not realize the impact of the meat industry. More pessimistically, there are some people who are aware but consider the task too difficult. There is also an unknown number of people like myself whose very occasional meat consumption makes them feel like they can’t call themselves vegetarians. I find convincing people to start doing meatless Mondays sometimes leads them into vegetarianism. This is the area I believe consumers have the highest potential impact in.
Driving also has a clear carbon impact. There does seem to be some potential for emissions reduction through carpooling and use of public transit, but that is not a viable option for everyone. Consumers are essentially beholden to the government to provide better transportation options. Although people are aware of the impact of cars, they do not think about their driving in environmental terms. All I can do is encourage people to decrease their driving when it is not truly necessary. If possible, try to plan your life with consideration to reduce driving. Building my life so I do not have to drive frequently is a personal goal of mine.
Flying is another one that is uncomfortable to talk about. It feels very wrong to tell people to fly less. Travel is supposed to broaden our horizons, and limiting that feels contrary to living a fulfilling life. Aviation contributes around two percent of global emissions, a relatively small amount, but emissions are projected to grow at 300 percent-700 percent by 2050. We are also nowhere close to reducing the environmental impact of flights. Electric jets are currently a pipe dream. I am not saying don’t fly at all, but be aware of the impact of your flight. Avoid taking shorter flights, as takeoff is the most fuel consuming part of the flight.
We can only expect so much of each other in the fight against climate change. I just believe we need to be careful to not be hypocrites when we use strong rhetoric. My golden rule is just to consider the environmental impact of each purchase I make. It is unreasonable to expect everyone to live a spartan life, but do what you can to reduce your consumption.
Matthew Nota is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org