One of the reasons why I think the whole climate change alarmism is, well, alarmism is because the obvious solution is almost always dismissed out of hand. If climate change is occurring and it is due to humans releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and if this activity left unchecked represents an existential crisis for the human race on a par with a meteor impact as some claim, then we should be switching to nuclear power as fast as we can build the new reactors. But we’re not, and those that are prophesying doom are usually the ones telling us we can’t because of the problems associated with nuclear power, e.g. the waste disposal and safety of the plants. The problems they cite are genuine but they don’t represent an existential threat to the human race the way climate change supposedly does and these problems are solvable, particularly if enough time, money, and resources are thrown at them. They are relatively minor, in other words. Therefore, if somebody is going to cite the problems with nuclear power as a reason why we cannot utilise this technology to stave off the imminent destruction of the human race, one is entitled to be skeptical as to the honesty and motivations of the anti-nuclear climate change alarmists.
In a more general sense, if somebody is citing a major problem and offering a solution, but ignoring more obvious solutions, chances are they are engaging in politics, virtue-signalling, or both. I was reminded of this the other day on a matter not related to climate change but another area of environmentalism which this blog likes to talk about: carrier bags. Somebody posted on Facebook a link to a story regarding a carrier bag ban which the government of Bali has introduced after two Balinese teenage girls petitioned them. Apparently discarded carrier bags are strewn all over Bali and Something Must Be Done. Naturally this was being applauded by all right-thinking folk, except me who suggested it might be better to first find out who is littering the island in this way: locals or Australian tourists. One individual thought this meant I was “looking for someone to blame” instead of “finding a solution”, leading me to conclude he was almost certainly a middle manager in a modern corporation and had been on a training course recently.
Anyway, my point was that those who litter will continue to litter with whatever they have to hand even if carrier bags were banned, and a better solution would be to identify who is doing it, find out why, and try to educate those people into valuing their environment a little more. That way you retain the utility of the carrier bags plus ensure no other form of littering takes place. Had anyone shown any interest I’d have even talked about how the alternative to carrier bags might be more damaging and a cost-benefit analysis might show simply sending somebody around once per day to collect the discarded bags to be the most effective solution.
But alas, I was dealing with the modern-day middle classes in the developed world for whom bans are the first resort rather than the last. Naturally, somebody invoked the plight of “the children”, which The Simpsons dealt with so well:
I was told by various wealthy middle class mothers that restrictions on plastic use are necessary so that “our” grandkids have a world left to live in. Never mind that if this keeps up the world “we” will bequeath to future generations will be a ludicrously expensive nanny-state which might not be worth living in.
But something occurred to me. Of all these middle class mothers who wish to see a reduction of plastic use and carrier bags banned, how many do you think swaddled their nappies in reusable, washable nappies instead of the convenient, non-biodegradable disposable ones? You know, the ones my mother used on her four kids through the 1970s that had to be washed by hand in the sink and then boiled in a special saucepan on the stove afterwards? I could have asked, but for the sake of good relations I didn’t, but then again I didn’t need to. I know damned well that for all the concern of the middle classes over plastic use and carrier bags, not a single one of them will shun disposable nappies and switch to towelling ones for the good of the environment.
The reason for this is simple: they are less concerned about the environment than they are preserving their own comfortable lifestyles, and when they talk about reducing plastic use they mean reducing other people’s plastic use. Sure they’ll reduce their own use to a point, and bring home the shopping in an organic woven hemp bag that fits nicely into the boot of their 3.2l SUV. They’ll probably even tell you about it, too. But they’ll not give up anything that is genuinely convenient to them: the inconvenience is for other people, you see. As I always knew regarding carrier bag bans, it is about virtue signalling more than concern for the environment. So next time you hear somebody advocating reducing plastic, casually ask them a couple of days later if they use Huggies or Pampers. You probably won’t even need to wait for the answer.