The Concept Of “Personal Carbon Footprint” Was Popularized By The Oil Industry To Deflect Responsibility

The personal carbon footprint is a ruse…

Just 100 Companies Responsible For 71% Of Global Emissions, Study Says The Guardian, July 2017
“ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies.”

The article below was written at the very beginning of the covid lockdowns in early 2020. The global economy came to a standstill. The skies turned blue. Much was and will continue to be written about that time.

What The Coronavirus Means For Climate Change, New York Times, 27 March 2020

But I draw your attention to this one sentence:

Which is to say, in order to be meaningful for global emissions, changes in consumption habits as a result of the virus would need to extend beyond individuals to the larger structures that shape our lives. In China, it wasn’t telecommuting or grounded planes that led to the 25 percent drop in emissions. It was the abrupt halt of industrial manufacturing. (The concept of the “personal carbon footprint” was popularized by BP in a 2005 media campaign costing over $100 million — a campaign that, research has indicated, deflected responsibility for climate change away from the corporation and onto the individual consumer.)

The problem is a global economy that seeks perpetual growth. The planet and its inhabitants are running out of resources to satisfy that growth. The side effects are landfills and plastic dumps, air/water/soil pollution, extinctions, diseases, and conflicts to confiscate remaining resources. Something has to give.

Dare To Declare Capitalism Dead – Before It Takes Us All Down With It, George Monbiot, The Guardian, April 2019

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity.

1 thought on “The Concept Of “Personal Carbon Footprint” Was Popularized By The Oil Industry To Deflect Responsibility

  1. Anonymous

    This is such a brilliant synthesis of ideas and essays from quite varied sources that really prove your primary point! And that point is so well taken. Back when I was teaching, I taught a graduate seminar on environmental art, and I certainly could have used this blog post to shore up my own points in the class! There are some wonderful environmental artists working to remediate exactly the problems that you describe in this article or blog post. I really really admire your thinking and your assembly of varied ideas and sources!



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