Why aren’t we talking about waste any more?
Once upon a time, it was generally accepted that the root cause of climate change was human wastefulness.
Yes, burning fossils fuels, growing too much livestock for meat etc is what actually causes climate change, but we only do those things because people want things. A lot of things. We consume so much, and we waste so much more, and that’s been steadily increasing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
We waste food. Like, ridiculous amounts of food.
We wrap products in unnecessary amounts of packaging.
“Approximately 7bn of the estimated 9.2bn tonnes of plastics produced between 1950 and 2017 are now waste items.” theguardian.com
Every weekday, we move a 1300kg machine from home to work and back again, just to move a 75kg human and their 1kg of baggage to work and back. It could carry another 4 humans in it, but we don’t do that.
We have 15-minute hot showers when a 5-minute shower would get the job done (I’m particularly guilty of this one).
…and I could continue listing all the ways we are wasteful, but that would get boring.
The point is: if humans were less wasteful, there’d be less demand for products and services, which would mean that there’s less need for the providers of those products and services to do harmful things like burning fossil fuels.
But nobody in politics or in the media talks about that any more. The climate change debate is framed around solutions like “carbon pricing policies” or “technology not taxes”. Somehow if lots of countries gather together at “climate change summits” and commit to “carbon neutrality” by such and such a date, then somehow climate change can be averted, or at least minimised.
But I don’t see how we can tackle climate change without addressing the root cause of climate change. And nobody’s talking about that.
And it’s easy to understand why. No politician would ever win an election if they stood up and said “if you want to save your planet, you need to be less wasteful.”
No, my friends, the key to winning elections is to convince voters that you can solve climate change in a way that won’t impact their wasteful lifestyles at all. Loudly proclaim that you’re committed to carbon neutrality, and if they ask how you’ll actually get to carbon neutral, tell them “technology” or “carbon pricing” or “investing in innovation” or some other bullshit that looks good on a Powerpoint slide. But for god’s sake don’t tell them that they’ll need to change they way they live — that’s political suicide.