Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine

Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine


Home » Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine

“The task of the truly concerned citizen is not simply to navigate through various consumer choices remaining as ethically pure as possible. Our task must be to fully engage in whatever way we can to bring about positive change”

Last month Ethical Consumer magazine asked us to write a piece about technological versus community or political solutions to climate change. You can subscribe to Ethical Consumer here. The full article is below:

Technology obviously plays a vital role in tackling climate change. Smart meters of various kinds and smart appliances are clearly a crucial part of the jigsaw that allows us to monitor and reduce our carbon emissions. But we must be careful not forget the rest of the jigsaw. Looking at the impact of the rest of your lifestyle is still vital. Engaging in the climate change debate, communicating the issues and using your voice a citizen to bring about wider change are all crucially important at the moment.

We should welcome the various recent technological developments but they should not become an excuse for abandoning our efforts in other areas. Given the difficulty and urgency of climate change it will always be tempting to find easy, simple solutions that allow us to forget about the problem. Although gadgetry, whether it’s a smart meter or a roof mounted wind turbine, will always be appealing the best ways of reducing energy consumption are still the most boring. Insulation and draft proofing should remain a priority.  Simple behavioural changes around the home should also not be forgotten in the face of shiny gadgets. Although we may be thoroughly bored of hearing about not leaving appliances on stand-by and turning down the thermostat there are still millions of households who are not taking these simple steps. We need to make sure we’re doing them and communicating them to people who are not.

While technological fixes will help us along the way we must begin to accept that our lives may change significantly as we adapt our society to deal with both the causes and consequences of climate change. We should not fool ourselves that technological developments will allow us to continue our lives exactly as they are right now. We must begin to understand that the way we travel, where our food comes from, how much energy we use and how generate it will all change.

Of course tackling climate change goes beyond looking at your own energy consumption and life style. Over the next 12 months the UK Government will be taking some monumental decisions that will effect Britain’s contribution to climate change and also have international repercussions. At home the Government will decide whether to start a new phase of coal fired electricity generation, whether to go ahead with various airport expansions, whether to give permission for new nuclear generation, what are renewable energy targets should be, how much of the UK’s emissions can be offset overseas… the list goes on. The UK will also take part in the UN climate change negotiations in December where world leaders will agree (or not) on global carbon emissions cuts, who makes them and how they are paid for. Although our government makes these decisions they are not out of our control. There are numerous ways as a citizen that you can engage in the political process.

It’s not my place to tell you which issues you should worry about and how you should go about addressing them. Part of being an engaged, concerned and active citizen is to find out about the issues for your self and make your own decisions about what kind of action to take. Needless to say there are many groups and projects that address different parts of climate change debate. They organize in different ways, have more or less radical stances on various issues and bringing about change in different ways. You will agree with some and disagree with others. But as you find out more about climate change, the possible effects in the UK and other parts of the world, what the solutions might be and what the barriers to change are – you will begin to form your own opinions on how to engage with the issues and which groups, if any, to get involved with.

The task of the truly concerned citizen is not simply to navigate through various consumer choices remaining as ethically pure as possible. Our task must be to fully engage in whatever way we can to bring about positive change.

Alex Randall, Centre for Alternative Technology