A recent news item I came across stated: “If SUV drivers were a nation, they would rank seventh in the world for carbon emissions”, as apparently SUVs are outselling every other kind of car worldwide. In a changing climate of climate change, how on earth can that be? You would think drivers might switch to smaller, lighter cars at a time when air pollution in many cities is becoming unbearable, or even switch away from cars altogether. But no, bigger vehicles are being driven more than ever.
The fact is that whenever a technological breakthrough occurs in energy savings, we end up using that new technology as an excuse to up-size products, which means just as much carbon gets emitted in the end, if not more. In the last decades, as gasoline and especially TDI engines became more fuel-efficient, most buyers simply ended up choosing bigger, faster, more powerful models. The same thing happened with the invention of energy-saving lightbulbs: now, decorative LED lighting strips are embedded into every architectural nook, cranny, fold, and swoosh. And left on day and night. Ordinary electrical appliances these days resemble veritable Christmas trees with all their LEDs. Do I really need a little red light to tell me that my electric toothbrush is on stand-by, or that my toaster is plugged in?
Isn’t technological progress supposed to improve energy efficiency, reduce the amount of garbage we throw out, and lessen our need to continue extracting raw materials? Something is seriously wrong when “smart” innovations intended to solve global problems only end up exacerbating them.
It is quite obvious, then, that we prefer to spend energy or material savings; not invest them in our planet. We say: “Oh goody: a new, more efficient motor. Now I can drive a bigger, faster, more idiotic vehicle”. The only reason society demands more efficient tech is to consume more.
The other day, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla “Cybertruck” to typical tech-sector bombast. It’s supposedly bulletproof, making it a truly all-American monster truck. But hey, it’s electric, so no problem whatsoever. Really?
In Bali, a wealthy expat homebuilder is using bamboo because “it is the most environmentally conscientious building material conceivable”. Yet the houses are over the top monster homes for first-class flying millionaires (very Balinese indeed). WTF?
What are eco-innovations good for if they don’t actually make a difference? The problem is that “saving the planet” is being “sold” to us as an entirely voluntary activity; a personal “consumer choice”. The eco-monster phenomenon proves that solving climate change cannot be left to consumers. Nor can it be left to a private sector whose only real interest is profit. Maybe it’s time governments started doing something about climate change? Just an idea…