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It's the lack of thought that counts

10 Apr 2024 | News Roundup

The other day we were driving in a major Canadian city and a large wide heavy industrial truck trundled past with the slogan “On the Road to Net Zero” stuck on its side. Whoever put it there probably realizes that the proposed destination does not permit trucks of this kind, yet they dutifully cheer on their own demise. Which oddly reminded us of the latest order of clothing to arrive from Amazon, also by truck, in a package claiming to be “reducing carbon emissions”. Both offer up conventional pieties in an unconvincing, lackadaisical manner, as in the decadent phase of a state-imposed civic religion. It is like living in a society where it remains customary to offer oblations to the Olympian gods, while not giving two seconds’ thought to what Hermes would want you to do, or whether Zeus might punish you for denying hospitality to strangers. The weird ritual quality to it all suggests the worst combination of conformity, cunning and indifference.

Whether you call it “greenwashing” or mere hypocrisy, it is a rarity in the debate in that it irritates the zealots and the skeptics equally. The former grumble that all these corporations genuflecting before the sign of Net Zero are just faking it while destroying the planet, and the latter that by carrying on with the pretense they are shoring up bad public policy. And both are annoyed, rightly, that this stuff is everywhere but doesn’t seem to mean anything. You can confront intransigence. But not mush.

The people who, for instance, make the garments in question are not lying when they say “Being earth-friendly is important to us.” We have no doubt that the majority of that firm’s employees, from top to bottom, really do care about the environment and like to go to bed at night thinking they haven’t spent the day helping wreck it. The problem is that having agreed to the conventional formulation, like someone mumbling their way through the Lord’s Prayer while thinking about cooking some bacon for breakfast as soon as the dreary thing ends, they do not spend much time actually conforming their behaviour to their words, probably because they haven’t bothered discovering much about what it would require.

In the case of the trucking firm, the problem is that what they do is energy-intensive. And since wind and solar cannot power our economy, for reasons this firm certainly cannot control, the fact that they might at some point buy enough offsets or engage in other Jesuitical jiggery-pokery does not mean that they will not emit carbon. It just means they’ve purchased the modern equivalent of an “indulgence”. Again, we do not accuse them of having worked through the whole thing and decided to fake it. On the contrary, we accuse them of having vaguely absorbed a few conventional pieties without careful consideration, made them into a slogan, and gone about their business.

You can find literally thousands of examples. Indeed, it is hard to find a product nowadays that does not merely claim to be environmentally friendly, but make a hoo-hah about climate in particular. Go ahead. Read the package, or the website promo, before you buy it. Whatever it is. And yet we are not on the road to Net Zero collectively because we are not on it individually. That people really think offsets somehow work doesn’t make it better. Especially if they go out of their way to avoid listening to any contrary claims lest it disturb their sleep.

P.S. We ourselves, since we do not believe in a man-made climate crisis, are not being lazy hypocrites in rejecting the advice on the underwear package to “Wash cold and save energy”. We strongly suspect that most people who buy such things don’t hunt through the packaging for ideological sore points. (Just as most normal human beings don’t get riled up at those ridiculous notices telling you that everything you buy is known to the State of California to cause cancer, partly because they don’t read them.) But among those of us eccentrics who do, we strongly suspect that they wash them in whatever way they think will work, and those who choose to wash in cold water aim to save money not the planet.

7 comments on “It's the lack of thought that counts”

  1. The last point is bang on. I hang all my clothes to dry, indoor, year round, not because it fights “climate emergency”, but because it’s the hot dryer that destroys clothes. Since I started hanging them on a retractable line from canadian tire my clothes last forever, 8-10 years for good cotton dress shirts for example. Added bonus, the 12 hours it takes to hang dry in our calgary home adds humidity to the air. That plus using a gas stove for extra co2 means my house plants are even more lush.

  2. Green pieties include the war on convenience currently being waged by Calgary’s mayor Gondek and federal minister Guilbeault. The ban on straws and bags make as much sense as the warning on truck topper/canopy that is causes cancer.

  3. Very true! This of course means that the end is nigh for the climate cult because very soon the climate cult will irritate enough of the people you so accurately describe and the cultists will be hauled out with the other trash!

  4. WRT the parallels with a decadent religion, Andy A. West's book The Grip of Culture is indispensable. The best effort I've seen applying tools of social science research to (otherwise baffling) goings-on around climate in the G7 countries.

  5. Climate change, as we generally understand it today, ceased to be a science long ago and has become a religion. The true believers cling to their visions of climate catastrophe in the expectation that they will be among the blessed saved on the day of judgement, when the world will be consumed by tempests, fires and floods. Such people are impervious to logical arguments or indeed evidence of any sort. All that the agnostic majority can do is laugh at them. If enough of us do this, it might gradually sink in how foolish the true believers really are.

  6. Bingo!The last paragraph says it all for me.I insulated my walls and attic to save money,not reduce my emissions of a harmless,odorless gas!Ditto for
    buying a high-efficiency furnace.At the time,there was little or no talk of CO2,at least on the federal level,because Harper was PM.He paid lip service
    to climate change,and his admin. actually quietly left the Kyoto Accord around 2011 I think.And the last 9 years have been a political nightmare for
    Canada in every aspect.But hey,we got pot shops on every other corner,yahoo!Harper would never have let that happen.Stodgy Stevo!(sarcasm).

  7. As to washing clothes in cold, or merely cooler, water, my washing machine does not offer such a thing in its multifarious programmes, so I shan't be bothering with such climactic ameliorations, warranted or not!

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