Voluntary or Mandatory?

This is an excellent article written in today’s Independent by Johann Hari. 

When it comes to climate change, it’s long since been my argument, my mantra, that voluntary participation is never going to work and legislation is the only answer – regardless of any “libertarian” losses.  And at all levels – individual, corporate, governmental, national and global. 

Johann says it much better . . .

“Green campaigners from Australia to Canada to Japan have successfully banned the old lightbulbs, so only the energy-saving lightbulbs are on offer there now. Green campaigners have prompted the Mayor of London to force SUV drivers to pay a punitive £6,000-a-year premium to drive through our city, forcing many of them to shift to greener cars. These are the first tiny steps towards banning – or massively restricting – the other technologies that are unleashing Weather of Mass Destruction.

Of course, some sincere and well-intentioned people have libertarian concerns about this approach at first glance. Why should we force people to choose the green option? Isn’t it better to rely on persuasion and voluntary choice? But even the most hardcore libertarians agree that your personal liberty ends where you actively harm the liberty of another person. Greenhouse gas emissions are undeniably harming tens of millions of people – and endangering the ground on which all human liberty rests: a stable and safe climate.”

He also made a good point in that if we have an hour a week to dedicate to tackling climate change and we use that time shopping around for ethical goods, we are losing the opportunity to do something that would have much more of an impact.  Of course we can still try to choose to buy goods that haven’t travelled across the globe because this gives the supermarket giants a clear message and their profit needs will ensure they meet our demands but Johann does have a fair point here because people tend to think that if they buy local goods and low-energy lightbulbs, they have “done their bit” and are relieved of being active in real terms against climate change.  In short, it gives a false sense of good conscience.  Being active in real terms means supporting the work of the Green campaigners who have already achieved much progress on many levels.   

We can all do our bit and buy local tomatoes etc. but as the writer says, we just don’t have the time so maybe we do need “collective action”.


2 responses to this post.

  1. A revolution in shopping habits? Not ill-thought, but as you say it is up to the Law to provide for safety of all types to us, mere citizens. And the most important safety for us is environment because it involves all types of activities including wars.

    It might mean a start from scratch in the capitalist world we live in, but every march starts with the first step.

    We are not afraid to meet with the foreseeable changes, it is the industry, the commerce that are really frightened their economic panorama undergoes a radical change.


  2. Well said Jose.

    Just recently, a Green party Euro MP won a motion asking the European Parliament to hold an enquiry into the big four supermarket giants in the UK and their impact on farmers, smaller shops etc.. I am looking forward to reading the findings.


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