How to Fight Climate Change the Lazy Way

A simple step by step guide for how we can save the planet

So you realized that climate change is kind of a bad thing, and you want to help, but you realize you are lazy, and simply not dedicated enough. You find it hard to quit eating juice red meat. It feels so much more convenient to drive to work. And you just love flying to exotic places with an airplane.

What can you do to help the environment? One simple solution, which lots of people have opted for to reconcile their inaction and feeling guilty about it, is to simply deny that global warming is a thing. It is a hoax perpetuated by the global elite. Problem fixed, not need to do anything.

But what if doing something wasn’t so hard? There is in fact a solution for the lazy ones: It is called collective action. It means that instead of each one of us having to muster the motivation to make the sensible green choice every day, we vote in green parties which change the system around us to make it easy to be green.

Say you want to travel far on vacation or a work trip. There is no train that takes you there and if it could, it would take 2 days. So you really want to fly but that pollutes a lot.

What to do? You vote a green party into power and convince as many as your friends as possible to do the same. They could then change the incentives under which travel operates. Here are some ideas:

  1. Mandate that all airline companies offer zero emission trips. That could be through using biofuel or electro-fuel. Eletro-fuel is fossil fuel substitutes made by using electricity to transform other chemicals to something that be used as fuel. Basically water is electrolyzed to produce hydrogen, which is combined with CO2 to create a hydrocarbon fuel. The mandate could be like the California requirement that a certain amount of cars offered needs to be zero-emission.
  2. Government invests in and subsidize train travel or other public transport. Find ways to compensate for the slower travel time. E.g make it much more comfortable and convenient. One could offer people more entertainment on the ride to make it more pleasant as well as offer more opportunities for working. Wifi, plugin electricity, some desks to sit at. Government could sugar it by pushing companies to accept that work on trains count equal to work in the office. People who choose to travel to their destination by train could get an extra vacation day. The point is to make is desirable to go green.

Driving may be very convenient to get to work. But what if you elect a government that puts in a great bike network which makes it safe to bike at high speed to work. You get exercise.

Or how about building a nicer bus system. Buses with comfortable seats, Wifi, ways to charge laptop. Make it easy to work on the bus. Again push companies to allow work on the bus to count as regular work hours. Thus taking a bus rather than driving could save you time. Rather than sitting in the car being unproductive, you can work on the bus and come home earlier. Now going green is desirable, you don’t have to sacrifice anything. In fact you benefit.

There are more alternatives. Perhaps we can call it the Norwegian way, which is to make it very desirable to buy an electric car. Tax all other cars or increase gasoline taxes. Give electric cars access to special high speed lanes for public transport. Make the opt out of paying for toll roads.

I am not done. There are so many ways to go about this. Companies could get tax breaks for every day workers stay home working and don’t commute. We could offer all sorts of incentives to encourage working at home. For those who cannot find space at home, one could subsidize building local neighborhood offices, which can be shared by neighbors. Anyone can go there and utilize Wifi, desks, printer etc to work remotely.

Finally we could try to re-zone our cities. Mix residential areas and commercial areas more so people don’t have to move far to go to work or shop. Apartment complexes can be built with shops and bottom floors. Some parts could be allocated for offices. We should use taxes to discourage big box stores out of town, which people must drive far to get to.

This is really about convenience and options. When I lived in the Netherlands e.g. I eat more vegetarian because there was a lot more selections in grate tasting vegetarian food than we have in Norway.

Instead of making it your job to buy a boring tasteless salad to save the planet, lets reward companies that come up with great vegetarian options that are enticing and taste good. Give government funding to vegetarian startups. Companies that create meat replacement. Subsidize these companies so people will choose it over meat and we can get volume.

Have surveys and areas where people can sample and try out new things. Let us figure out what sort of alternatives people will go for, that can make them drop the meat.

A lot of my consumption is because stuff breaks down and is too expensive to repair. Or you always need to upgrade because the old stuff is no longer compatible with the new that suddenly everybody has.

We need to break this cycle and a collective approach can help us do that. Vote in a green party, that will:

  1. Increase warranty on products so producers want to make stuff that lasts.
  2. Mandate that things are easy to repair. Producers all too often use non-standard screws and special tools to assemble products intentionally to avoid that people fix them themselves. That has to stop. Make products easier to repair with standard tools
  3. Subsidize businesses that repair things. Right now repairing is time consuming and expensive. We need to encourage the construction of a stream lined repair industry.

How can we do the last two parts? We can encourage it by offering companies special green labels. To earn the right to put on that label the companies have to demonstrate several things:

  • That their product can be repaired easily with standard tools.
  • A better label if repair can somehow be streamlined or automated.
  • That the product is made of easily reused or recycled materials.
  • That it uses materials with low emission upon construction.

Products with green labels could get special subsidies or promotions. E.g. stores could be mandated to give them a more prominent space to encourage their sale.

In principle it doesn’t, but the point is that as we have seen for decades, getting people as individual to change their lives is really hard.

You should not force people to change, but you should make it easy for them to make the change they actually already want to do, but are too lazy to actually do.

We cannot rely on a green shift happening by expecting everybody to be morally superior beings, with high ideals they fight for every day. We got to make it easier.

Right now the easiest way to accomplish this is through government policy, because governments decide how our society functions. It is how our society functions which determines whether it encourages or discourages a green living.

And as I hope you have seen through my examples. My idea is not to deprive people, but to offer them desirable alternatives. Too often green policies are about taking things away from us. Often little thought goes into offering us alternatives.

They may decide to tax the car to death or remove parking spaces. However they don’t contemplate offering us an alternative which makes us not want to use the car anymore.

Going green has to be about more than just seeing problems. We also have to see solutions.

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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