Tackling climate change requires more than just looking in the mirror

by Ellie Hooper / 14 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Climate change

 Individual efforts to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions are great, but the onus lies with big polluters.Greenpeace's Ellie Hooper argues tackling climate change needs more than individual efforts - it needs all of us to act together to stop big polluters.

Last week, I came across Rebecca Macfie’s piece: ‘Nine things you need to know about climate change,’ originally published in The Listener.

It’s a brilliant read; informative and in-depth, and engaging despite tackling a typically dry issue.

But the end of the piece troubled me. ‘Six things we can all do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.’

Recommendations included reducing car journeys, flights, meat consumption, and more recycling.

They’re definitely important. People do want to know how they personally can make a difference, and many people do these things already as much as possible. But putting the onus just on the individual also plays right into the hands of the big polluters that are knowingly and systematically driving the climate change we’re already experiencing.  

These are the fossil fuel companies, that for decades have spent billions actively funding climate science denial, and lobbying governments to protect the industry at the expense of protecting their own citizens.

We’re talking about the staggering fact that since 1988, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

We should all individually strive to live more sustainably and use less, of course. But at the same time we also need to be collectively fighting for fundamental systemic change. We need to be fighting for options, because the sad reality is that in this petroleum-addicted age, we lack choice. It’s often unavoidable to get in a car, take a plane or use a product made from the stuff - even if we care deeply for the future of our planet.

Individual acts to cut carbon emissions alone is not going to stop climate change, nor is it going to stop the big oil companies looking for more of the stuff to burn.

So, here are other things we can also do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Get organised: Join a community group concerned about the climate
  • Lobby: Challenge your local decision makers to speed up climate action
  • Spread the word: Talk to your family, friends, and neighbours about climate action
  • Raise your  voice: Start a petition or add your name to one about a climate issue
  • Make polluters accountable: Challenge corporations to clean up their act
  • Protest: Take part in hikoi, mobilisations, peaceful civil disobedience for the climate

They might sound harder, but realistically this is what’s going to force a change for good, towards the renewable future we need.

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed one of these ideas in action.

Five wonderful, but distinctly ordinary people boarded the re-supply ship of oil exploration vessel - The Amazon Warrior - as it docked in New Plymouth.

They locked onto the ship in protest at the continued search for oil and gas off the coast of Taranaki - something our Government is so far allowing to continue.

They’re allowing this to continue, by the way, for one of those 100 companies in the world responsible for 70% of global emissions. An Austrian company called OMV.

If the gravity of how ludicrous this is doesn't strike you, then maybe this fact will: We can’t afford to burn even the fossil fuel reserves we already know about if we want to avoid going over the 2 degree warming mark - the point at which science says we face “extremely dangerous” climate change. With this knowledge, how could any government or industry ever justify searching for new oil?

Our new Government has said some good things about tackling climate change. Jacinda Ardern rightly called it her generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment’. But now we need to see meaningful action to back up those bold words.

If we’re going to tackle climate change in the time we need to, then we’ve got to act much faster. And you and me, and Bob down the road agreeing to not use our cars as much is a start, but it’s not going to be anywhere near fast enough.

This situation requires everyone, together, getting up, getting organised and getting involved. It means leaders, governments, anyone and everyone with a voice helping to end the existence of these climate-destroying industries.

As we watch storms lash our coastlines, and droughts and fires plague our summer, isn’t it time we turned our energy and anger towards those truly responsible for climate change?

It’s not you, and it’s not me, nor is it Bob down the road. Like anything systemic, the answer is far more complex and tricky to tackle. But it’s something we can tackle together. And together, we can win.  

Greenpeace has a petition asking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to end offshore oil exploration, seismic blasting and drilling in NZ waters, and stop the ‘Block Offer’ process. You can sign it here.

- Ellie Hooper is a Digital Mobilisation Specialist for Greenpeace Aotearoa.


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