Can We Move Past the Voluntary?

I was lucky enough to stumble across an article by Sami Grover on Treehugger on climate change, Eric Holtaus, and the problem with voluntary strategies.  Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who has covered climate for the Wall Street Journal, made a drastic lifestyle change in light of the latest IPCC report.  The IPCC reported that climate change is rapidly becoming irreversible and dismissed many geo-engineering strategies as viable solutions.  Leaving drastic emissions reductions as the only viable option.

Holthaus flies approximately 75,000 miles a year.  He has now made the conscious decision to stay grounded.

When calculating your carbon footprint the areas with the most opportunity for emissions reductions are flying, meat consumption, and electricity use.  Reacting and adapting to climate change requires lifestyle changes.  Your ability to reduce your carbon footprint lies in your current lifestyle and if those areas of your footprint are high it is most likely because you like them or need them.  To these points Grover pointed out the unfortunate reality that “relying on personal, voluntary lifestyle changes is never going to be a winning strategy.

The issue with a voluntary strategy is not just felt with climate change, but Chesapeake Bay restoration as well.  These are not winning strategies, and yet, groups continue to advocate for them.  Look how far the voluntary has really gotten us with the Chesapeake Bay in the last 30 years.  We have made some progress, but was that all we really could have done?

Add to this – our political reality.  Environmental issues are a pawn in the political game.  On top of that, we are in the middle of a government shut down.  How does this impact our restoration and advocacy strategies?  It might not effect the state’s ability to continue implementing WIP efforts, but our whole federal structure is for the most part missing.  We are without important agency staffers who work closely with states to address climate change and Bay pollution.

Grover went on to conclude “…climate doesn’t give a damn about your personal carbon footprint.”  And to that I would add the Chesapeake Bay and the environment as a whole does not give a damn about our politics.  It does not care about our voluntary attempts.  If your child was sick would you take a voluntary approach?  I am pretty sure that answer would be no.  So why is it acceptable now?