I have a strong bias for positivity, and it’s because I find that an optimistic outlook leaves me in a better frame of mind day-to-day. I’m anxious by nature, so rose-colored glasses are an effective shield against all of the worrisome things in society. And unfortunately, there are A LOT of those things these days.
For longtime readers of this blog, you might have noticed my positivity bias. For the most part, I use Ecocentricity to write about good trends and topics in the environmental space. Only once in a blue moon will I choose to write a post that is overtly critical of something.
[Checks lunar calendar]
Oh, what do you know? Halloween was a blue moon! Buckle up folks, because my claws are about to come out.
On Monday morning, the official Twitter account of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, posted a poll that asked a very simple question. “What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions?
”I know what you’re thinking – “Naaaaaaaaaaaaah, is that real? They wouldn’t have been that stupid, would they?” To that I say yes and yes. Here’s a link to the tweet. As you might have guessed, they got FLAMED in the responses. I completely understand if you fall down the rabbit hole of reading them and don’t make it back to finish my blog. It was tough for me to come back and keep writing.
I’ll lift one response up, from Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, one of my favorite climate scientists. In her tweet back, she wrote, “What am I willing to do? Hold you accountable for 2% of cumulative global [greenhouse gas] emissions, equivalent to those of my entire home country of Canada. When you have a concrete plan to address that, I’d be happy to chat about what I’m doing to reduce my personal emissions.”
I couldn’t have answered any better, and she and many others did a tremendous job in shaming Shell for the tweet. Dr. Hayhoe also put her finger directly on a critical tension in the climate space – a tension that Shell was trying to exploit with their tweet. To what extent is individual behavior change key to reversing global warming?
Fossil fuel companies have a vested interest in society thinking individual behavior is the most important element of solving the problem. They’ve known about the climate science consensus for decades, and they’ve obfuscated it. Now, they want to blame-shift. “We just provide the energy you need – we don’t make you buy it!
”To be clear, individual choices do matter, and I spill a lot of virtual ink advocating for them in this blog. But our changing climate is a systems-scale problem. Individuals have a limited influence on how carbon-intensive our society is. Fossil fuel companies, on the other hand, have a massive influence (doubly so when you look at their lobbying expenditures in addition to their operating expenditures).
So Shell, let me ask you a question. What are you willing to change to help reduce emissions? If the answer isn’t your entire business model and the system in which it operates, then I’m afraid you are still putting your financial interests above the interests of life on Earth.
Okay, that’s enough well-warranted criticism for now. I’ll be back with more positivity next week, I promise.