Global environmental groups have begun posting regular Twitter threads outlining how grave their concerns are that the top 10 percent of wealthiest people in the world aren’t doing enough to curb their carbon emissions after creating the climate crisis in the first place.
Sadly, the 50 percent poorest in the world, who have not been contributors to the climate crisis in any way, have begun experiencing complete destruction of everything they own and love. Many are having to flee their homes and become refugees in other countries.
And although these harsh realities were mentioned by world leaders and climate activists during their impassioned speeches at COP26 in Glasgow, and reminders are shared through various social media platforms every single day, there still appears to be a disconnect. For whatever reason, the message isn’t seeping into the minds of the right people. Many of the top 10 percent, the 22 million millionaires in the United States, appear to have a pronounced blindness to the fact that they are the problem.
We can actually see this with our own eyes in many affluent communities in the United States. The indifference. The flagrant disregard for the personal space and rights of others. See what you see when you go shopping at Whole Foods next time. I’m stunned by how many shoppers are oblivious in my affluent community. Do you notice this, too?
I had to dash into Whole Foods the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving to pick up a few extra items. It was much more crowded than I expected and I was short of time, so I was that much more aware of unnecessary obstacles and delays caused by indifference. I kept marveling that so many shoppers couldn’t see that parking their cart in front of the shelves, while they trekked down the aisle to find what they were looking for, meant that other shoppers couldn’t grab the items on the shelf behind the cart without having to move their cart, which wasn’t always easy because of the tight space.
There was a family of five in one aisle that was completely indifferent to the other shoppers. They took up the entire aisle width so that no one could pass. Their children were trying to balance objects on their heads. The parents didn’t ask their kids to stand back and let shoppers through, but rather indicated that everyone had to wait until their kids were finished playing.
The most glaring and problematic indifference happened in front of the five foot tall enclosed refrigerated desert display. The display with the double glass doors. An older mother and daughter pushed their cart up to the right-hand display door and parked it there (rather than further off to the right where there was open space). They stepped to the left and opened the left door. Meanwhile, when I approached, I couldn’t open the right-hand door. They swiveled and saw that I couldn’t open the right display door, but did nothing. So, I gently moved their cart back and explained, “I just need to grab something.” They huffed and acted annoyed, (rather than apologetic). They didn’t think to move the cart further away from the display so that the next shopped wouldn’t also be inconvenienced.
It dawned on me while walking to my car after checking out, that if affluent humans can’t even process where to park their cart in the grocery store so that it doesn’t negatively impact the shopping experience of other shoppers, how will it ever register in their minds that the car they drive and the size of their big house is killing innocent people in other states and across the world.
There appears to be something in many of their brains that prevents them from seeing clearly, and when someone politely points out what the problem is, rather than apologize, they become defensive, and indignant. This suggests that hearing an impassioned COP26 speech isn’t going to register either. They likely became angry in their homes when hearing the news that they’re the problem. When angry, most don’t change their ways, but rather dig in their heels.
It appears that incentives, laws and policies will be the only way to motivate change for many of the wealthiest. The greatest advantage the poorest 50 percent have over the wealthiest 10 percent is their voting power. Quantity of voters matters significantly in the war on climate and may be the only way we’ll be able to stay below 1.5C.
Election year 2022 will decide our fate.
- Consumption of ultra-rich will be 30x greater than what is compatible with keeping global heating below 1.5C.
- If current consumption continues, richest 1% are on track to release 70 tons of CO2 per year.
- Poorest 50 percent are only projected to release an average of 1 ton of CO2 per year.
- The glaring indifference of many of the wealthiest towards the hardship they cause the poorest 50 percent, and the havoc the wealthiest wreak on the lives of the poorest, can only be solved through policy and legislation. They don’t have the proper mind sight to see the pain they’re causing others.
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