We are so sick of the rush into carbon offsets. This is a classic case of big companies and big government avoiding actually addressing the core issue and doing some window dressing to trick people into thinking they are.
For context, the essential idea of a carbon offset is when an entity, usually a private company, offsets its own carbon footprint by allocating money towards things like buying carbon credits, donating to climate NGOs, investing in future green technology (such as carbon capture), etc…so in simple terms, if a company produces X amount of carbon annually, they are aiming to buy the exact same X amount of offsets to get to carbon neutrality, another pet peeve of ours.
This is just accounting. A similar comparison would be when a wealthy person avoids paying taxes by “hiding” their net income behind future investments, overseas reserves, charitable donations (which often go to a trust they directly control and essentially own). They are doing totally legal creative accounting to hide their income in a way others can not. Thus no taxes owed.
You’ve probably heard at some point to know and try to lower your carbon footprint. We all have one. We all could use a lower one, right? This is your duty in serving your role in saving this planet. Lower your carbon footprint.
Hogwash. Look here’s the thing, this entire personal carbon footprint campaign was created by British Petroleum. That’s right, the same BP that dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and continues burning the heck out of fossil fuels today. Here is an article on Mashable chronicling their 2+ decades trying to push people to calculate and lower their footprint.
Why? Cause it puts the feeling of responsibility on the individual, not giant corporations, including the mega oil company.
Large companies and wealthy individuals have a way of misleading us. They are quite manipulative and quite good at it. Look at Jeff Bezos. He pledged $900M in 2020 to climate and environmental focused NGOs and the media glorified him for it. Even though that represents .5% of his wealth. Which is the equivalent of a millionaire donating $5k. Wealth he generates from one of the most polluting companies in the world. Rather than change Amazon and push towards more local commerce, cleaner transportation, and better worker conditions, he tosses a nickel at the problem he’s benefiting from to distract us.
The carbon footprint calculator is the same deal. It’s nearly impossible to meaningfully lower your carbon footprint, because everything we do creates a ton of carbon. We can’t choose to get our electricity from cleaner sources. We can’t choose not to go to work to limit car travel. And the things we can choose to do – eating less meat, buying 2nd hand clothing, washing our laundry on cold….they do matter but not for the carbon footprint reason. They don’t change that equation enough.
They matter because culture matters. Culture is everything. The only way out of the climate crisis long term is to shift culture away from mindless, never-ending consumption and towards one that values simple things over material things, smart eating choices, eco-friendly practices, etc…we need to get to a place where it is culturally normative to live in balance with the world around us.
That will take many years. Cultures take generations to iterate. Every little action and the little action you inspire in another contributes to the needed cultural shift. Do it with love, compassion, and inclusion. Not shaming, judgement, and self-righteousness.
Don’t worry about your personal carbon footprint. It’s corporate propaganda. Worry about your role in contributing to reshaping culture.