I recommend that everyone read Emma Pattee’s fascinating and thought-provoking 12 October 2021 piece about the need to challenge the standard ideas about how to stop global heating—one of the piece’s pull quotes says the following: “By promoting the carbon footprint as the single most important thing for concerned citizens to focus on, the fossil fuel industry ensured that we wouldn’t put our energy toward what truly matters: collective action and activism.”
I have a threefold response to the piece. First, political action will determine whether we survive global heating—political action means building popular movements that will be able to compel governments to adopt vigorous government programs.
Second, the hydrocarbon industry understands very well that profits will continue to flow as long as we don’t adopt these vigorous government programs—based on this understanding, the industry has adopted a diversionary strategy where they try to divert attention to individual lifestyle choices.
Third, it’s good that this piece broadens the notion of individual action but it’s unfortunate that the piece displaces attention from political action in a way that plays right into the industry’s diversionary strategy—a more meaningful “climate shadow” would consider the time and energy that each person’s nonpolitical efforts take away from political action. Take a look at what the piece actually discusses—I recognize that the pull quote refers to the industry’s diversionary strategy.