I’ve been looking for suggestions of individual actions one can take to reduce CO2 emissions. In particular, ones which actually make a big difference (unlike, e.g., switching to LED lightbulbs). Everywhere I look, all I see is "have one fewer child" dwarfing all other actions by effectiveness. It's all anyone talks about.
The Web is full of figures like this one. It shows the one-fewer-child recommendation being equivalent to about 60 t/y, where the next-best options like “sell your cars”, “stop flying” or "be vegan" are mostly in the 1–2 t/y range. So high, they had to clip and compress the range on the graph so you could even see anything else. That looks pretty stark. That figure is so high, it seems as if nobody could ever hope live sustainably if they had even one child. They might as well be taking a long-haul flight every 10 days for the rest of their life! Now, we definitely shouldn't discount conclusions just because they are surprising or uncomfortable, but we should scrutinise them. That feeling of "…really?" is the first hint something might not be right.
I am, to the best of my abilities, divesting myself of fossil-fuels, monetarily. I don’t have any money invested anywhere (or much full stop), but that doesn’t mean that what little money I do have can be used by others for ill.
So far I have cancelled my bank accounts at Halifax, Natwest and Lloyds (which is particularly bad), and moved completely over to The Co-Operative, which is the only high-street bank which has an explicit policy of not investing money in “any business or organisation whose core activity contributes to global climate change”.
The next step is to check what USS invests its money in, and remove any of mine which is supporting malign corporate interests.
I am more-or-less following The Guardian’s ongoingseries on personal divestment.
Today I read two letters written by companies which impressed me.
The first is by Kickstarter. Some asshole was trying to raise money to produce a "seduction guidebook" which advocated sexual assault of women, and though many people asked Kickstarter to cancel the project before the funding period completed, they didn't. Then today they wrote a (seemingly) sincere letter of apology to their users, and by way of compensation have donated $25,000 to RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organisation.
While Kickstarter definitely made the wrong call, I am convinced that they truly regret it and intend not to let it happen again.
The second is a letter from The Fullbright Company, which is a four-person game development studio who are almost done with their first game Gone Home (which I've been looking forward to). Today they wrote an open letter announcing their pulling-out of exhibiting their pending game at the PAX Indie Megabooth, an indie games showcase at a games expo organised by the Penny Arcade organisation. Their choice, which is not in their material interest, is based on Penny Arcade creators' recent misogynistic, transphobic and classist posturing (which you can read about in the letter).
In both cases, it is refreshing to see a company take a moral stance (if a little belatedly in the first case) on something which is not in their immediate financial interest. It is somethings difficult to remember that companies are made up of individual humans who have moral compasses, and who want to have a positive effect on the world, even in the context of a financial venture.
[Update: Now I am older and wiser, I don't necessarily any-longer agree with everything I wrote here, but I'm not going to delete it (yet). If you also disagree, let me know.]
I was talking to a couple of friends of mine about politics the other day. The conversation ended in a disagreement about whether or not one ought to adhere to principles of cultural relativism. That is, whether it is fair or legitimate to criticise the practices of members of another culture from the inescapable perspectives of ones own. I was arguing against cultural relativism but in the course of the discussion some arguments were raised which I hadn't considered before and which made me stop and reconsider my position.
My purpose in writing this is partially in order to get my thoughts in order and partly in the hope that the discussion can continue, 'cause it's one that interests me. I wish to wear my ignorance of many relevant topics on my sleeve and, as always, I'm completely open to the prospect of changing my mind.
My feelings were that open criticism of other cultures should be permissible. I felt that if we had carefully examined our own reasoning and motives, we ought to be allowed to criticise the practices of others, even if we understood that those practices may be the product of another culture and its historical context.
What a beautifully irony-laced headline from Spiegel Online International.
From the article:
Since 2006, ethics has been a compulsory subject for all high school students in Germany's capital city, while religion is an optional course. The "Pro Reli" campaign wants to change those rules so that pupils would have to choose between ethics and a faith-based religion class. Those classes would be strictly divided along religious lines, with Protestants, Catholics and Muslims being taught separately.
I actually can't believe this. It's like a piece of science fiction.