JimC wrote: ↑
Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:01 pm
This is a really good point. Individual people making individual choices will not save the world, especially because no one can know all the indirect consequences your choices have. How can you know whether the bio seal of the tomatoes you buy can be trusted? How can you know under what circumstances the things you buy are produced?
It's nonsense to put the burden on the consumer. The state must make rules and enforce those rules. Now, here is where this collides with the idea of free trade. How can we have free trade and at the same time enforce social end ecological standards on the products we import?
Certainly individual actions by themselves will not "save the world", and serious decisions and actions by states are clearly needed. However, individual actions can make a contribution, IMO. Not so much in the area of choosing which evil company to buy gadgets from (which triggered this discussion), but things like:
* simply buying fewer gadgets, and hanging on to ones that still work rather than buying the newest flashy model
* solar cells on your roof
* as much as possible, using public transport, bikes or shank's pony, and if you do get a car, make it an economical one (or electric)
* if possible, grow some of your own food
* where you can, avoid packaging and single-use plastics
* and another important individual action, voting for parties with the best policies on the environment
I'm sure many other simple individual choices could be added...
We can't really modify global Capitalism or mitigate its effects simply by consuming differently: it's the systemic relationship of Capitalism's parts which is the problem, not necessarily the things it produces or the things we consumer. However, by taking individual action to change the way we consume we can demonstrate -- to both ourselves and to others -- that our motives and values are permeable, that we can re-evaluate, redefine, and reset our priorities and in so doing can still live rich, fulfilling and productive lives - just arranged differently with different stuff.
Though the cynic will baulk at Jim's list above there's nothing which is unreasonable or unachievable there - at least for people in Jim's situation. I think it's important to acknowledge that not everyone is society is in the same position, and while some can do more the opportunities for others can be, and often are, somewhat limited. We've all heard of the idea of 'food deserts' in relation to particularly poor urban areas, where access to fresh food and veg for example is limited by availability and/or by personal economic factors, but people can always do something to limit their adverse impacts on others and the environment if they are given the opportunity and a bit of positive encouragement.
I think 'encouragement' is a good word here, because to some extent it takes a measure of personal courage to examine one's personal and social activity and acknowledge the unvarnished consequences thereof. Those who would like to make the kinds of changes on Jim list then need to have the opportunity to do so - they need to be empowered, so to speak, which is to say they need both the opportunity to make consumer choices that limit the negative effects of their own consumption as well as the means to make those changes.
I think 'empowerment' is another good word because 'power' in this context, that ability to act, influence, decide, or control these particular aspects of our individual and collect existence, is something which is severely limited for most of us. Imbalances of power define the systems which global Capitalism has devised and exert in favour of its own ongoing, institutional interests but which nonetheless are increasingly acting to the detriment of the environment and ultimately of society at large.
Capitalists are people too (no, really!) and like the rest of us they're behaviour is simply a response to the conditions of their environments. The individual Capitalists who act within the global theatre of Capitalism all live in the same communities and societies that we live in - the only difference between 'them' and 'us' being their material conditions. So it follows that individual Capitalists are just as capable of making the kinds of changes on Jim list as anybody else - perhaps more so given the particular freedoms their economic success affords them. In the face of an environmental crisis that, if left unchecked, is going to effect everyone pretty much equally badly in the end, individual Capitalists also need to be encouraged and empowered in the same way everyone else needs to be: empowered to re-evaluate, redefine, and reset their motives and values, and in so doing challenge their assumptions and change their priorities to focus on a system that embodies a more balanced state of affairs.
So while individual action may seem fruitless in the short term it doesn't mean that resistance is futile. The only way were are going to empower Capitalism to restructure its priorities is to represent our own shift in priorities in our choices - by making changes in the way we live our lives, in the way we vote, and by acknowledging the reasons for these necessary changes in the way we organise our societies and pointing out the benefits for ourselves and for the generations that follow.
The World is like this only because we made it that way. If we want a different kind of World then together we can make is so.