For GBA senior editor Martin Holladay, it all started with a column in The New York Times provocatively titled “Going Green But Getting Nowhere.”
The author, Gernot Wagner, contends that individuals can make no meaningful impact on reducing carbon emissions and staving off global climate change.
Even if each of the 1 billion Catholics on Earth decreased their emissions to zero overnight, Wagner writes, “the planet would surely notice but pollution would still be rising.”
“So why bother recycling or riding your bike to the store? Because we all want to do something, anything,” Wagner adds. “Call it ‘action bias.’ But, sadly, individual action does not work. It distracts us from the need for collective action, and it doesn’t add up to enough. Self-interest, not self-sacrifice, is what induces noticeable change. Only the right economic policies will enable us as individuals to be guided by self-interest and still do the right thing for the planet.”
And by that, he means a cap-and-trade approach put into place by government.
Holladay (who has lived off the grid for many years) doesn’t agree. “My own opinion differs from Wagner’s,” he writes in a post at GreenBuildingAdvisor. “I’m a firm believer in the importance of personal actions that are consistent with our goals — but I agree that without governmental action, we face a grim future indeed.
“I also disagree with the author’s belief that living off the grid is a form of purgatory,” Holladay adds. “Really, Gernot, it’s not so bad.”
So what’s it going to be? Personal action or government policy? That’s the subject of this week’s Q&A Spotlight.
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