In “The carbon footprint fixation is getting out of hand”, Simon Mundy repeats the old story that the term carbon footprint was invented by BP, partly to deflect attention away from corporate emissions on to those of individuals (Magazine, August 27).
That doesn’t make it useless; in fact, it has crucial benefits. First, it reminds us that for humanity to survive, we all need to consume less. Even in a Utopia of limitless renewable energy, we cannot continue extracting more from the Earth than it can restore, or extinguishing species at current rates.
It also usefully reminds us that we are not all equal consumers: the wealthiest 10 per cent of the world’s population generate 50 per cent of emissions, and in the UK, 15 per cent of people take 70 per cent of flights, while half of us don’t fly at all.
But crucially, it also addresses those very feelings of impotence and despair Mundy cites among the young. Individual action leads by example; it gives us credibility; it leads to a new normal, and it connects us with like-minded others, so we don’t feel like fools. He is right that a lot of so-called environmental, social and governance investing is greenwash; he doesn’t even mention the real iniquity of “offsetting”, a rigged resellers’ market that does nothing to reduce emissions and often takes a vast percentage in fees before anything reaches the supposed beneficiaries.
But while we wait — and campaign — for pension funds, investors and industry to mend their ways, those of us who believe in walking the walk will continue to do the right thing.
Advisory Council, Minderoo Centre for Technology & Democracy, Cambridge, UK
Artist in Residence 2020-21, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Support Lumiserver & Cynesys on Tipeee
Visit our sponsors
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is the cheaper, easier way to send money abroad. It helps people move money quickly and easily between bank accounts in different countries. Convert 60+ currencies with ridiculously low fees - on average 7x cheaper than a bank. No hidden fees, no markup on the exchange rate, ever.
Now you can get a free first transfer up to 500£ with your ESNcard. You can access this offer here.