Tag Archives: Climate

Greta is our Hero

Note: I wrote this a week ago and with my ever present procrastination it sat around in Google Docs doing absolutely nothing. I even thought about scrapping it. But yesterday I found a news story saying that the main motivation for this writing, Greta Thunberg, was actually nearby! She was in Iowa which is notable in and of itself. Iowa isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find someone with worldwide fame to be at outside of presidential candidates during Primary Season. Coincidentally, I was in Iowa last weekend when I was bitching about hotels. I’m well experienced with the absolute nothing that is in Iowa: they have corn and that’s about it. I also can’t shit on Iowa too much because I myself live in Illinois, another state that can easily be described with the singular word that is “corn.” (And Chicago I suppose.) So the stars aligned and Greta was only a few hundred miles away from where I am now and stupidly close to where I was last weekend. Let’s publish this shit and get it over with while I naively think the Universe is sending me signals.

This post is clearly breaking with tradition by not featuring something “that sucks” but if anything what does suck is our inability to actually change the world as individuals. I wrote an early post about that here if you want to check it out. Instead of dwelling on the negativity of our helplessness I want to take a more positive approach. Crazy, right?

Greta Thunberg is yada yada and I’m sure you’ve heard about it all on either mainstream news stations, social media, our your drunken, second-amendment-obsessed right-winger uncle. And I’m sure you already have your opinions of her depending on what you’re brainwashed to believe: she’s either a personal hero (raises hand) or a total fucking villain, something something deepstate/liberal propaganda puppet. I don’t like giving an overview of people like this because it’s tedious and boring; anything or anyone I write about is probably popular enough that you already know who they are. So yeah, Greta. You already know her.

But hey, didn’t you say you weren’t going to write anything political anymore? Yeah, you’re right actually, and that hasn’t changed. What you might not realize is that climate change isn’t political at all. It’s established scientific fact, kinda like the theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics, and electromagnetism are (and surprisingly aren’t politicized). Climate change is such sound science that I’m not going to dick around with proving it to you guys: it’s like trying to explain that the sky is actually blue. I’m not going to prove shit because it’s already been proven. The idea that climate science is a political topic is just some bullshit wizardry invented by those that have a personal interest in the public’s ignorance on the topic.

Why Greta is so beloved/hated is due to how outspoken she is in regards to climate change. She is also a young female which also attracts the ire of detractors. She isn’t wrong though: the climate is a finely tuned and immensely complex machine that has developed over literally millions of years. Humans destabilizing the machine within a few hundred years leaves ecosystems with nowhere near enough time to change and adapt and it’s this upcoming collapse of ecosystems that is the real issue with climate change. As much as people like to think they’re separate from nature we are as much a part of it as any other lifeforms on earth. We’re hopelessly dependent upon the very ecosystems were destabilizing. Greta is pissed about all of this because people have been fucking up the planet for decades well aware of the problem at hand and have done jack to prevent any of it. She’s basically been telling world leaders to get their fucking shit together because we don’t have much room for error going forward.

I think Greta speaks for all of us too: why can’t people in charge get their shit together? Why are companies allowed to pollute and pump endless amounts of CO₂ into the air? Why doesn’t somebody do something?! Note how we always gripe about someone or somebody else. Here’s where I slightly disagree with what Greta is saying: we are the people that need to be doing something! You and I are the problem, and asking or demanding someone else like companies/governments to do something is slightly missing the point. The only problem here is that us, as individuals, feel utterly powerless to do anything to prevent climate change. While we actually hold all the power, we don’t know how to wield it.

Companies don’t pollute for the hell of it because that would go against simple economics. Everyone acts in their own self-interests, corporations as well as us consumers, and this is what drives the world’s mostly capitalist economies. It isn’t a perfect system but it seems to be the economic system that works the best. Us as consumers want good products for cheap and companies provide those products to us to earn the most customers/money. Consider the electric companies: they don’t burn coal for the hell of burning coal, they burn coal because it is the cheapest form of fuel they can find and if they find anything cheaper they’ll switch to that. The problem isn’t companies blatantly polluting, the problem is they have no incentive to do otherwise because us consumers demand their products.

The reason none of us alter our daily activities and habits is because we all feel powerless. If I was the head of a giant corporation I know I could take drastic measures to combat climate change. The same is true if I was a politician. But I’m neither of those things and am just some random guy in Illinois. What can I do to stop climate change? And why would I want to change anything if it will be utterly futile? This is why we want the government or corporations to do something; we can’t do a damn thing because we feel powerless as individuals.

We can stop climate change dead in its tracks if we collectively got our shit together as individuals. We are the problem, but by being the problem we are also the solution.

And back to Greta. Greta is our hero because she can unite us usually helpless feeling individuals and give us direction. I really think humans by our very nature require leaders. Left alone we kinda zip off in our own directions and wander around with misdirected motivation. I think of bugs or moths around a light a night: each of us while wanting to do something is zipping around lost, confused, misguided and undirected. If only we had someone to give a voice to those who feel they have no voice and to give us all a direction to move towards. Someone to inspire us.

Greta also contributes to meme magic.

And that’s what I think Greta’s main power is. We all like her sticking it to world leaders and corporations but they only do what their constituents/consumers want. They’re only working as they should in a capitalist economy. (Maybe that is the problem? There is no incentive to work in a carbon neutral way because there is no economic incentive to do so. I think a carbon tax might be a good idea, although I’m no expert.) But with Greta sticking it to the world leaders, she gets us all on the same page. She gets people passionate about climate change and has us asking What can we do to help stop climate change? I know I’ve been asking myself that same question over and over the past week and I can only imagine that other people are doing the same thing I am, possibly by the millions. We’re not alone and she reminds us of that.

Changing the World Sucks: You Can’t

I was browsing Facebook like I always do when I’m trying to be somewhat productive, and I stumbled upon someone’s comment about climate change. This guy basically stated that it is our lifestyle that causes climate change–our personal day to day lifestyles–and through our heavy use of things that require fossil fuels why would we expect society to change? Climate change, to that asshat, isn’t a problem that should be tackled by government or anything with actual power because fundamentally it’s a personal lifestyle problem.

I immediately became pissed off over this and thought about all the things I am trying to do to personally lower my carbon footprint. I ride my bike to work, I bought a little 2-cycle engine for my other bike, I drive a small car, and I try to use e85 fuel to lower my dependence on oil. From having a manual reel mower to using LEDs to plotting about installing rooftop solar panels I am doing everything realistically I can to help change the world in the sphere of my own life and that of my family. And if everyone did this, the climate problem would fix itself.

Obviously, he was right about our lifestyles causing it. Us Americans love our SUVs, our commuting lifestyle, our electricity, and our hamburgers (cows fart out an amazing amount of methane), so why the hell was I pissed at Random Facebook Guy if he was correct? Because of what I wrote three sentences ago: if everyone changed their lives a little the problem would be solved. But guess what? No one actually changes their lifestyles and a large portion of people don’t really give a damn about the climate as long as they get a pay raise every year and don’t have to shovel snow as much. The key to it being solved isn’t necessarily me, it’s other people, people who I have an infinitesimal influence over.

We live in a hugely connected world where ideas from across the globe can reach us and influence us. Thanks to the internet, natural boundaries which once limited human collaboration and the sharing of ideas are nearly gone, and even foreign languages can be translated instantly so even that isn’t a barrier as much as it was. This sounds great for the possibility of world change,the possibility that one person can make a difference through the use of technology. It doesn’t work that way though. Humanity is big. Really big. There are about 7 billion 7.5 billion people in the world. Billion doesn’t even properly reference how big of a number that actually is. But there’s 7.5 of those billion out there in the form of people, and you’re just one of them. 1/7,500,000,000. Or 0.0000000001333 of the total human race.

Why the fuck would I think I can have any effect on climate change, or anything for that matter when effectively I am zero of the total human population? I can’t even figure out how to pester the city to put bike lanes along a few major roads, but somehow I can change the world? Sure bro. Sure.

That’s why I’m pissed and that’s why changing the world through this “live the life you want others to live” shit doesn’t work. I can have a zero carbon footprint on the planet without sacrificing any real comforts (yes, I know my phone and solar panels need to be manufactured but how the fuck does that compare with gasoline in cars and coal fueled power plants?) and this makes zero difference because there’s another 300 million Americans, and 7.5 billion other people on the planet, that can and will make my contribution null. I can be as awesome as sourcing all water from the rain and all electricity from the sun but a few fuckers in their SUVs can ruin any of my progress in a few hours (if that). And guess what? They don’t give two fucks about it and I can’t change that.

So even though we like to think we can be that “big change” we like to see in society, we really can’t be. There’s simply too many other people in the world that can fuck up your plans in a way that they don’t even have to try. The key here is influence, and a single person carries almost no influence and ability to change a thing. You might get lucky and become the next Zuckerberg where people will listen to you, but probably not. And if that’s not the beginnings of a dream-killing train of thought, I don’t know what is.