The dependence on Russian oil is too great, the gas is too expensive, the nitrogen emissions are too high, the coal is too dirty and the queues at Schiphol are too long. As a result, emotions are running high. Emergency plans, lawsuits, farmer protests, heated party congresses, stress in the coalition. And in the eye of this social hurricane, consumers can continue to do their usual course.
About the author:
Gersom Smit is a public administration expert.
This year it was already on April 12th Overshoot Day in the Netherlands. With 263 days to go, we had already reached the maximum draw we can put on the Earth each year. If the world lives like in the Netherlands, we would need 3.6 Earths according to the Global Footprint Network† We simply live too much.
Yet our daily choices are completely out of the question in all discussions. We demand that Schiphol resolve the queues and are looking for alternative airports, so that we can still go on a flying holiday (almost unburdened). Instead of discouraging heavily polluting meat consumption (which just won’t drop), we are looking for technical solutions such as filtering the air in the barn and adjusting the protein content in the animal feed. And to protect our purchasing power, we are compensated at the pump, while we wanted to get rid of the oil. A missed opportunity to use the crisis for behavioral change, something that Germany is doing with virtually free public transport this summer.
With more and more emergency bandages we maintain our acquired lifestyle. But the real solutions to our colossal environmental crisis are about changing, not facilitating our behavior. Fortunately, it is bursting with beautiful, fun, healthy and sustainable alternatives. Holidays close to home were very successful during corona. Many teams can function just fine without all driving to the office. Plant-based recipes are very affordable, healthy and delicious.
Buying something locally via Marktplaats is much more fun than always having it delivered new. Spending a year longer with your current phone and jacket will save you a lot of money. And peonies are of course extra beautiful if you wait until they come from the country at the end of May, instead of buying them from the greenhouse and abroad all year round.
In short: you can be part of the solution yourself every day in a cheerful way. I think a lot of people would like this, but we’ve gotten used to looking at politics and business. Politicians fight for our entrenched consumption patterns, instead of confronting us with their untenability. In fact, the party congress of the VVD suggested that we have the space to go for a nice ride again together. And countless stores make good appearances with wafer-thin sustainability promises, so that we can continue to consume their products with peace of mind.
traffic jam driver
The daily reporting in the newspapers and on news sites also lacks a critical mirror and attention for attractive alternatives. Not a single angry passenger at Schiphol is asked in front of the camera about his personal decision to fly. No traffic jam driver is asked why he suddenly wants to be back at the office at half past eight.
And several newspapers, including de Volkskrant, this week dealt with ‘ten questions about the nitrogen crisis’, with really not a word about the role of the consumer. For example, what contribution a different diet can make to reducing emissions. Sander Schimmelpenninck was a confrontational exception in his column: ‘This time is not too expensive, the previous one was too cheap.’
I hope that in the near future we will hear the honest message more often and that we will be challenged more to look at ourselves. Our ecological budget is up 263 days early this year and it is an important, valuable, inspiring and even fun challenge to be more frugal.