This summer has been hot. Not the hottest summer I’ve had in Texas but hot enough. More worryingly, it’s another summer in what looks like a trend of increasingly hot summers due to unstoppable climate change. It’s hot enough that the grass is dying in places that don’t have shade. The heat is so exhausting we’re making trips to cooler states in the summer to escape, ironically those trips are on planes, which exacerbates the climate problem.

I’m desperate to figure out a way I can help. I keep researching what ascetic life changes I could make to have the biggest impact. I could go vegan tomorrow if it made a big difference… but… and I hate to be a cynic… but one dude in Texas changing his diet isn’t going to save the Earth. It wouldn’t even move the needle.

My biggest point of frustration is that I’m tired of environmental responsibility always falling on the consumer. I know consumer demand bubbles up into societal change, I’m willing to do my part. But as a consumer it feels like I’m throwing time and money at a solution without a critical mass behind it. I have to pay extra to be “green”, I have to sort my trash, I have to change my diet to be more local and sustainable, I have to take less plane flights, I have to buy an electric car, I have to re-insulate my attic, I have to run my air conditioner less, I have to buy newer and greener appliances, and on and on. It’s like the collective “plan” right now to avoid impending catastrophe is for seven billion people to choose to “do the right thing.”

My wife made the observation the other day that every shift we do towards “being green” comes with a new job, some new series of tasks we must perform.

  • Using reusable shopping bags? Rad. First, you have to remember to put them in the car, then decant them in the appropriate room, then spend your evenings walking back-and-forth across the house putting bags you find back in the car.
  • Using water bottles and/or metallic straws? Awesome. Now you have a small army of those clanky fuckers and their little attachments spilling out of every drawer and cabinet. And you gotta wash those dirty boys. If you have kids, you already know they use ~10 different water bottles and ~32 cups through the course of the day.
  • Re-useable containers? Great idea, but now every day you need to dig through kids’ backpacks to find grody containers with half-eaten cheese sticks, wash them every night for the next 12 years. And then… those hard boiled eggs you forgot about in the back of the fridge get found and you have to wash the glass container the rotten eggs were in.
  • Growing your own herbs and vegetables? Bueno. Now you have a side gig as a farmer, you got a rosemary bush the size of a Christmas tree in your back yard because no one eats that much rosemary, meanwhile the basil wilted, your cilantro bolted, and you have to go to the store anyways.

We’re doing our part, dammit, but the ocean’s still full of trash and the CO₂ levels ain’t getting better. Does the government even have a plan? Why do consumers have to incur the costs, when closing one superfund site or shutting down some toxic industrial complex would be the same as millions of people “doing the right thing.” What if our government took some of the $649 billion dollars in oil and gas subsidies and put them towards something else? Something that isn’t killing us.

Ending on a more positive, less rant’y note. This week I heard about Austin’s effort to have an entirely electric fleet by 2032. 6,800 heavy-use vehicles, going electric. I’m excited for this and hope it happens faster. This needs to happen in a thousand more cities. But it shouldn’t stop there. States should do this. Corporations should do this. If companies demand in-office labor, then those companies should help their commuters be as carbon neutral as possible. We need big changes, faster.

Alas, this all underscores my whole frustration; it shouldn’t be on every consumer to live a monastic lifestyle to save the Earth. The societal structures we form around people should be the infrastructure for change and should lead initiative.