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AT Guest Commentary: More than actions, money speaks louder in fight against climate issue

By Jill Soffer, originally published Jan 20, 2020



I just read another op-ed about how to help the climate crisis by cutting my own carbon footprint. If I ride my bike, stop eating meat, throw a few solar panels on my roof and hang my laundry out to dry, we can fix this problem.


Unfortunately, while worthwhile, personal effort isn’t moving the needle quickly enough. If it did, Australia wouldn’t be going up in flames as we speak.

This narrative appeals because it’s the familiar Judeo-Christian one — sacrifice your comforts and you will be saved. Unfortunately, the climate crisis isn’t about saving you, or me, it’s about saving us. It’s about saving the planet that we all share.


The confusion is that we individuals also are consumers. We consume all things carbon-emitting: We drive cars, eat meat and burn the midnight oil, also known as light bulbs. We travel for business — flying long distances in huge, stinky, carbon-and-otherwise polluting airplanes. We travel for pleasure, to unspoiled sandy beaches in the Caribbean and glorious glacier-capped peaks in Nepal, enjoying the wonders of the earth while simultaneously, albeit guiltily, making these places a little less wonderful by emitting more than “our share” of carbon.


It’s easy to blame your travel or my fancy house. But sacrifice and guilt just pit citizen against citizen. There’s no upward movement toward solution. That stuff drives us apart and the climate just gets worse.


Shouldn’t we focus our efforts on the biggest actor? The one that encompasses us all? That would be our government.


Our government — the one we pay taxes to — is fully engaged in prolonging carbon pollution. Our government gives tax breaks, credits and subsidies to expand fossil fuel exploration, drilling, pipelines and exports. The very businesses that are making money in creating this climate crisis.


Do you ever wonder why, in 2020, it’s taking us so long to transition to fossil-free solutions? We’ve known about climate change since the ’80s. For example, why do we only have a few electric vehicle options, mostly with batteries that don’t allow you to drive more than 150-250 miles without re-charging? It’s not because storage batteries are so unbelievably complicated. OK, they are, but so was going to the moon. Once the U.S. government got behind that idea, with lots of money, an American was on the moon in eight years.


Read the full article on Aspen Times.

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