Assembly 2022

Jan 03, 2022

This assembly involved households in Montreal, Wilmington, Boston, Abingdon, Cambridge (with reports from London and St Albans). We are learning how difficult it is to reduce carbon footprints through individual/household actions while the larger systems remain little changed. Even with flying being reduced for the year footprints remain stubbornly high. The calculator assures me (3.5 planets) that by changing the car (to EV), and diet (no lamb or beef) and heating (air source heat pump), that I/we could get close to 1 planet. Given that all these changes are likely to occur within the next 2 years and other family members are thinking along the same lines the initial pledge of zero by 2030 might be achievable.

Not all the family are on board. Individual actions could be seen as unhelpful distraction from the necessary changes to the system. However, any successful attempts at mitigating carbon emissions are likely to involve adaptations to low or lower carbon lifestyles. Making a virtue of this necessity can mean that behavioural change is just reversing this process; using adaptations as a form of mitigation.

This assembly follows the dismal COP26 that rammed the message home that governments are not able or willing to instigate system change at the scale required. That leaves individuals (and families) with few choices. We can block m-ways or support those who do. But we can also be some of those who become part of the change. The theory that under 4% of a population can cause a significant social change might underestimate inertia, hostility and fear, but capitalism is sustained by competition and fine margins. If 5% of consumers change their buying habits most if not all affected providers would need to adapt if they are not to die. For the moment, behavioural changes to lifestyles that consume less carbon and allow biodiversity to flourish could be middle class fetishes (with no regrets), but could move economies towards helpful tipping points. Only time, which is running short, will tell.

Our next assembly will be facilitated by a ten year old with her cousins discussing their futures.