The right to pollute
While I studied law I worked as an environmental volunteer in a National Park in Ireland over the summers. I loved it so much to be outdoors all day to protect the oak woods from invasive species that I realised I wanted to work with nature in daily life. I should maybe have become a veterinarian as I initially planned! Anyway, when I came back home I signed up for a course on Environmental Law. And that became a very depressing period to me: The whole environmental law system evolves around the idea of ‘pollution rights’. Companies have a right to cause a certain amount of emissions and pollution. If they don’t use their full share they can sell it to a company that needs a little bit more: tradable emission rights, the complete moral downfall of capitalism.
Strangely I found out lately that individuals think exactly the same. When talking about climate change issues people say for example that ‘because they don’t eat meat they can fly to Asia for their holidays now’. As if we also have a certain right to pollute and that we can choose how to divide that. Of course being alive causes pollution. But we can still try to keep it as low as possible. That would ask a major lifestyle change for many. I find it strange that we are not able to do that ourselves without government intervention. When I see how people are loading up their supermarket trolley’s for December feasts I lose my hope for change already….
This climate problem needs a cultural and psychological revolution. Sometimes I can’t understand why it’s so hard for people to change their own lifestyles on their own initiatives, to buy less, fly less, holiday less, change their diet. Even many people who believe the climate facts still don’t change their behaviour. We must be a very egocentric species. I hope we all can talk about it over a sober Christmas dinner to make the people around us more aware that there is no such thing as a ‘ right to pollute’ . Happy Christmas!