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© cc photo: NASA
You, me, we – the consumer – are reminded daily that we must make environmentally sound decisions. This social pressure creates mutual irritation and even deliberate disobedience or alienation from climate responsibility. At the same time, we are all aware of a crumbling climate with all its consequences.
Citizens are being snowed down with ads for soap bars in recyclable aluminum containers to replace regular plastic shampoo bottles, eating meat is a taboo, flight shame an established feeling, and have you heard how ecologically destructive your avocado toast is? During dinner, while the steak is being served, the question arises: “Do you still want to put children on this earth?”
This endless, uncertain, but also intangible climate responsibility results in a kind of existential powerlessness. Thus, people like to laugh at all social coercion, in an attempt to neglect the burden of our unethical existence.
However, candy tours are approved. And why is it at the same time so incredibly cheap to fly compared to alternative forms of travel? Whether the responsibility lies with the citizen or the company is also intangible. Yet only 100 companies have been responsible for more than 70% of global emissions since 1988. But this also has its reservations because the capitalist market system is geared to supply and demand. As long as the consumer remains ecologically irresponsible, companies are happy to participate.
At the same time, companies are exploiting the green shame of the individual to sell more allegedly ethically responsible products. The consumer, proud of his green choice and mostly self-conscious, forgets to remind the company in question of its moral obligation. But does it turn out that all responsibility, both for purchasing and for contacting companies, lies with the citizen? The individualisation of climate responsibility will again benefit companies.
At the same time, polluting products are often cheaper than the sustainable variant, which means that some people are financially unable to take environmental responsibility. Being ecologically responsible depends on the extent to which you are in a privileged position to be able to make such choices. Looking at profit-hungry and tax-evading companies fleeing this moral crusade, the individualization of climate responsibility becomes even more contradictory.
Becoming inactive or disobedient due to social pressure is the most unproductive thing one can do. However, this does not mean that it is necessary to go vegan en masse, sell the car and turn to the neighbors. Ultimately, it’s about raising the ‘green’ awareness: it does not mean avoiding news about climate agreements and turning points in the ecological debate, but it does advertise so-called sustainable products. Talking to the Extinction Rebellion protester or participating in a climate march can be very valuable. Like raising awareness about the skewed distribution of climate responsibility and acting green in the moments that matter, as in the ballot box.
The all-encompassing and global nature of the climate crisis means that the moral responsibility to reduce emissions is not a responsibility of a particular party. The state, the market, and the individual are all three bearers of this moral duty. The groundbreaking Urgenda lawsuit has reprimanded Shell and is therefore legally obliged to assume responsibility for reducing its emissions. It is the final judgments that completely cancel out statements like ‘every little bit helps’.
It seems that the responsibility in the climate crisis is shifting from left to right, and that this mutual play is displacing the space to actually take responsibility. Ultimately, the individual is made aware of his or her ecologically irresponsible behavior on a daily basis, either in the supermarket or by the neighbor. It seems that companies are doing well. If we look at the global main emitters, a more representative balance of climate responsibility that presses us is in place. One that protects the citizen from unreasonable expectations and / or mutual moral behavior; One that takes a closer look at companies. Only in this way can the shared climate responsibility bear fruit.