Individual climate action: small steps matter

We need bigger steps to combat the climate emergency, but small steps matter too. This week Dave shared he feels climate action falls on consumers too much, rather than large companies and governments. Michelle responded that as tech workers, “we have the power to push for for change”, that we can “extend reach of our actions far beyond ourselves”. Matthias added that we all do something, “even if it feels like we are the only person doing it, it will make a difference.” Great posts.

Like Michelle and Matthias, I feel we can make a difference. I agree that we can use our privilege as tech workers, and that we can do individual things, even if small. I also agree with Dave—companies and governments need to facilitate these individual actions much better. Companies could provide more sustainable defaults, governments could have more tax incentives for sustainability. I say “more”, as both of these things continue to happen and the pace increases. Eating plant-based has been challenging for years, today it is trivial, even at fast-food chains known for their meat. The European Commission has negotiating climate action too slowly for decades, but recently launched a Green New Deal, spending trillions of euros on concrete targets (see also Delivering the European Green Deal).

Like most people, I'm a hypocrite when it comes to climate action. I haven't eaten meat for decades, but hey, I eat eggs and dairy sometimes, which can be as bad in terms of climate impact. I use trains for transport mostly, but hey, I still fly for work and family visits sometimes, multiple times a year. I try and buy stuff secondhand, but hey, my current shiny phone was bought new. I buy most produce directly from local farmers through Rechtstreex, but hey, I occassionally enjoy avocados and bananas that are flown in from very far away. I don't use plastic bags, but I gave my children diapers made of plastic.

What about governments? The Dutch government recently announced to invest billions in expanding the power network so that more solar panels can be connected, but they also still subsidise gas and oil. They have started charging companies for their CO2 emissions, but currently still charge lower VAT on meat than on plant-based alternatives.

Or companies? Shell will build Europe's biggest hydrogen plant, which is nice, but I don't even want to get started on how they've undermined climate agreements for decades and continue with fossil fuels on an enormous scale (Follow This buys Shell shares to then use shareholder privileges to demand greener policy).

Still, like Matthias said, we need to look at the good things that are happening, and encourage more good things. From governments, from companies and from ourselves. Small steps matter. In a country with millions of voters, one vote seems like nothing. But each vote ends up as a part of the election results. If we all stay home, nothing happens.

It may seem rational to find hypocrisy in my actions, or the government's actions, or those of companies. You'll probably find stuff quickly. But even if I'm inclined to, I don't want to be a cynic about climate action. I'd rather err or the side of being overly naive. Sometimes change is slow and complex, I want to keep the focus on making it work, not on looking for hypocrisy. So I'll continue to do my things. I'll also continue to expect companies and governments to act. In fact, they need to do more and do it faster, and this will impact what I buy and vote. It adds up if all of us buy and vote the right things, especially in countries where small parties can have impact.

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Hey I heard you liked replies so I wrote a reply to your reply… (cc @CSSInRealLife @m_ott)
“Sometimes change is slow and complex, I want to keep the focus on making it work, not on looking for hypocrisy.” — @hdv 👏💚
Love that we’re having these conversations, even though we don’t have all the solutions 💚
Let's keep this climate conversation going. Thanks, @hdv.