I want to be clear. I'm not saying we shouldn't live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don't pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it's deeply revolutionary. It's not. Personal change doesn't equal social change.
What I find problematic with Jensen's argument is that it absolves the individual-the basic unit of groups, corporations, and societies-of blame. When personal responsibility is removed from the equation, we find ourselves on a slippery slope, on which individuals make choices that benefit themselves but not necessarily society or the environment.
What should be emphasized is that it takes the collective will of individuals, who hold massive purchasing power, to make a make a negative or positive effect on the environment. Society as a whole has made already made quite a negative net impact on our planet, as evidenced by global warming and other troubling shifts in our environment. By individually choosing what and how much we consume, we decide collectively how to effect our environment.
We may not all agree on our personal decisions, but some of us are responsible for shaping policy for businesses small and large. What's ignored is a bottom-up nature of human development: if we don't learn to be personally accountable for our individual actions, then it's unlikely we'll feel the same way when we make decisions on behalf of firms.
Let's put an end to companies protecting selfish individuals. But before we can do that, we all need to learn and appreciate the consequences of our consumption.
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