145. Forget Shorter Showers: Why Individual Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough

07 important lessons from this video:

00:00:40 Why do humans believe that retreating into personal ‘solutions’ will be enough to save the planet? In part because the general population have fallen victim to a campaign of systematic misdirection: that personal acts of lifestyle modifications can mean the difference over the consumer culture and capitalist mindset.

00:01:25 Did you notice how all of the proposed solutions to raising consciousness about global warming in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” had to do with personal consumption: changing light bulbs, inflating tires, reduce mileage in driving, etc… while none of the proposed solutions mentioned shifting the power away from corporations and regulating the growth economy, which is the principle cause of planetary destruction?

Even if 100% of the American population incorporated 100% of the climate-positive behavior outlined in ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ US carbon emissions would only fall by 22%. “Scientific consensus is that carbon emissions must be reduce by at least 75%, worldwide.”

00:02:09 Over 90% of the water consumed by humans is used in agricultural and industry, with individual humans sharing part of the remaining 10%. “Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as human beings.”

Yet we regularly hear in the news that there is a water shortage and that people around the world are dying due to a lack of drinkable water, and that one way humans can combat this is by reducing our water consumption by, among other ways, taking shorter showers.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in John Oliver’s video How to Ru(i)n An Economy: The Untapped Potential of Defeating Food Waste that according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “up to 40 percent of all the food produced in the United States (Where the above mentioned 90% of the water consumed by humans is used in agricultural and industry goes) never gets eaten… Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year…” A food wastage which “has increased by about 50% since 1974.”

On a positive note, recall in the documentary Transcendence: When Humans Merge With Technology & Transcend Biology that 80% of disease in the world comes from polluted water, and there are very inexpensive technologies emerging to clean polluted water.]

00:04:03 Even if 100% of individual humans in the US were to recycle everything and successfully reduce their waste to 0%, waste reduction would only be reduced by a mere 3%, with the remaining 97% coming from corporate enterprises.

00:05:03 You can, and should aim to live as simply and as climate-positive as you possibly can, but don’t believe that ONLY doing your little part of it will make the difference. “Personal change does not equal social change.” More needs to be done to control those who are doing the greatest damage to the environment.

00:05:33 A double bind is a situation where you are given multiple options, but regardless of the option you choose, you lose; and withdrawal and ignoring the problem of global warming is not an option.

  • Option 1: Participating in the industrial economy may bring you short-term wealth and success, but in the long-term humans lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet; a scenario where everyone loses.
  • Option 2: Living more simply and climate-positive while not taking steps to stop the industrial economy that is doing so much harm to the planet may in the short-term feel we have won as we have the ego-stroking satisfaction of being able to say we’re “doing our part,” but again, in the long-run, the planet still dies; a scenario where everyone loses.
  • Option 3: Acting decisively to stop the industrial economy would involve giving up many modern luxuries and could result in war as those in power fight to keep their power and wealth.

00:07:32 Other flawed arguments associated with perceiving simply making individual human lifestyle changes as a way of saving the planet:

  1. That humans inevitably harm their environment. Humans have the ablility to help the planet as well as harm it.
  2. That individual humans are to blame for the planet’s condition. Again, humans can and should do their part, but it is the key decision-makers within the system which are the ones who have the power to cause the most harm, and the most good.
  3. That humans are no longer defined as citizens, but as consumers.
  4. Suicide is the only way to cause 0% destruction on the planet.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on the consumer and capitalist mindset, check out the videos: