Not-so-radical environmentalism

I take issue with the sentiments in New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s self-proclaimed “journey to radical environmentalism”.

First, none of the efforts that Mr. Blow recommends – composting, using reusable shopping bags, changing light bulbs, buying more produce at the farmers’ market – are even remotely “radical”. They’ve all been adopted and proselytized ad nauseam for decades.

Furthermore, these efforts are woefully inadequate at addressing the scale of our planetary predicament. If anything, they only serve as a distraction from more pragmatic solutions related to policy, investment, planning, and development of new and existing infrastructure – things like decarbonization of the electricity grid, alternative fuels, new modes of transportation and deep energy retrofits of buildings.

These all require governmental and corporate leadership, not a reliance on billions of individuals to suddenly change their behavior. This may not feel as virtuous to the average well-intentioned person who wants to feel as though they’re personally making a difference, but it’s a reality that needs to be contended with. We can ill-afford a continuation of ineffective “feel-good” approaches to global sustainability that actually achieve nothing.