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By Gordy Petersen, Owner, San Juan Suites in Friday Harbor, Washington
You may be a conflicted traveler. You love to jet off to exotic locations, kayak on pristine waters, hike in the old growth forests, and sail with the wind at your back. You love the freedom and benefits of living in this consumer driven western world and yet you hate it because you really believe the planet is doomed because of your excess consumption. So what are you going to do about it?
Buy carbon credits of course! You can have your cake and eat it too. You can turn around and embrace your odiferous carbon cloud that threatens to choke out all life on Earth by investing in sustainable renewable technologies around the globe. Promoters of this scam guarantee you will feel better about your huge carbon footprint. You will be absolved for your part in all this. What a concept!
Who could have predicted a few years ago that anyone would buy a “carbon credit” because they felt guilty for their lifestyle? Collective guilt is a powerful force and fortunes can be made if companies can figure out how to tap into it. And due to popular consensus consumers actually believe that they are the source of planetary stress. It is no wonder that corporate America is bringing us salvation with “sustainable planet saving” products and concepts promoted on fancy web sites. Today, nothing covers the nakedness of self-interest like the fig leaf of environmentalism.
Take a minute to think about the convergence of incredible things that need to happen in the marketplace for the carbon credit industry to succeed. Advertisers must convince consumers that the world will end if they don’t make responsible “planet saving” choices. Marketers need to persuade people that they can actually change the weather by purchasing their products. To perpetuate the profit consumers must believe that no matter how much they spend to save the world it’s never going to be enough. And the massive guilt we are expected to swallow for our part in destroying mother earth requires a powerful selling job. Mission accomplished!
There is no doubt that this industry has achieved success. So either these guys are the best group of professional promoters that ever walked the earth or there is another reason.
Why have green consumers abandoned logic and robotically accepted the guilt? I believe the answer is that this eco-phenomenon is actually a religious movement and corporations and entrepreneurs are tripping over each other to take advantage of the true believers.
Most religions encourage followers to make soul saving choices. Today we are encouraged to make earth saving choices. When this kind of green orthodoxy is demanded in consumer behavior it is clear evidence that environmentalism has changed. It has become a new paradigm for “seeing” the world and gives meaning to people’s existence. And sadly, environmentalism is no longer related to science. It has all the characteristics of religion.
It is astonishing to realize how deep in the collective psyche this goes and how many people actually believe fantastic ideas like “if we buy this product we can change the climate”. Just like other types of religious fundamentalism when the evidence can’t support an idea then it must be believed on faith. And it takes blind faith to believe that personal buying habits have anything whatsoever to do with planetary events in our solar system. (However, if you believe this then carbon credits may be for you.)
I don’t have a particular problem with environmentalism as a religion but it should be called what it is. In this country we are free to believe whatever we want. I want to save the planet as much as the next guy but I also know a scam when I see one. I just can’t understand why a rational person would give away money to some company that claims to perform questionable agenda driven ecological miracles unless the decision is a religious one. This is just like what happens in cults.
Like most religions there are those who choose to live outside the group. Those who doubt and deny the faith become “the problem”. That’s me. I don’t need to apologize for living and neither should you. Stop torturing yourself. Travel on.
[i] (See http://www.perc.org/publications/articles/Crichtonspeech.php)