21 March 2013 — According to author and climate change campaigner Bill McKibben, personal commitment to climate action is nice but what will be far more powerful – and quicker – is if you spend your energy to shift the system. Lobby to get your university out of oil shares for instance. [Or your superannuation fund for that matter.]

McKibben, writing in an article in Orion, says, “From the moment I wake up, almost every action I take somehow burns coal and gas and oil”.

No matter the actions he takes to minimise his footprint – solar electricity on the house, solar hot water, an electric car, that plugs into the rooftop solar – he’s “still using far more than any responsible share of the world’s vital stuff”.

What’s the problem?

McKibben, recognises that he, (and so many of us) are fully “embedded” in a world driven by fossil fuels.

“If those of us who are trying really hard are still fully enmeshed in the fossil fuel system, it makes it even clearer that what needs to change are not individuals but precisely that system.

“We simply can’t move fast enough, one by one, to make any real difference in how the atmosphere comes out.

“Here’s the math, obviously imprecise: maybe 10 per cent of the population cares enough to make strenuous efforts to change – maybe 15 per cent. If they all do all they can, in their homes and offices and so forth, then, well . . . nothing much shifts. The trajectory of our climate horror stays about the same.

“But if 10 per cent of people, once they’ve changed the light bulbs, work all-out to change the system? That’s enough.

“That’s more than enough. It would be enough to match the power of the fossil fuel industry, enough to convince our legislators to put a price on carbon.

“At which point none of us would be required to be saints. We could all be morons, as long as we paid attention to, say, the price of gas and the balance in our checking accounts. Which even dummies like me can manage.

“I think more and more people are coming to realise this essential truth. Ten years ago, half the people calling out hypocrites like me were doing it from the left, demanding that we do better. I hear much less of that now, mostly, I think, because everyone who’s pursued those changes in good faith has come to realise both their importance and their limitations.”

Lobbying your institution, such as a university, to divest itself from fossil fuel linked shares, or other climate destroying activity could be much more powerful.

Read the whole story here.

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