Even if you don’t care about non-human species, for those who care about their children and grandchildren are you willing to significantly reduce your consumption of unnecessary products? This is the only way that the current generations will stop stealing from those to come.
Work by Associate Professor Simon Michaux of the Geological Survey of Finland has clearly demonstrated that a like-for-like transition from an oil-based to a renewables-based economy cannot happen. This means that oil will be needed for generations to come, so we cannot continue to use it up at the current pace.
Michaux recently presented the first comprehensive analysis of the total amount of metals required to create a full, first generation of the ‘renewables economy’, based on a like-for-like assumption that the lifestyles of the wealthy could continue to drive the levels of economic growth desired by business and investors.
Based on current technologies for batteries, solar PV and wind turbines, he calculates that we would need enormous quantities of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt and vanadium. The global reserves to produce the quantities required simply do not exist. We have access to about 20% of the copper needed, 10% of the nickel and less than 4% of the lithium and cobalt required. Which means there will never be a ‘transition to renewables’ like in the simplistic story we have been told.
This means that current generations cannot squander oil reserves for unnecessary or nice to have products and services because these same oil reserves will be needed to produce essentials for future generations. We simply cannot wait any longer to tackle gratuitous overconsumption and unnecessary spending.
Some industries will need to be closed down and maybe the first to go should be the private jet industry. Celebrity Jet Tracker shows flight times of private aircraft belonging to the rich and famous. This is not a small industry, for example Europe’s leading transport campaign group Transport & Environment found one in 10 flights leaving France in 2019 were private jets. Half of those private jets travelled fewer than 500 kilometres with many in the air for a matter for minutes! Celebrity Jet Tracker revealed Kylie Jenner has taken private flights lasting a little as 3 minutes, something which should negatively impact her personal brand given emissions are at their highest during takeoff and landing.
Transport & Environment reported on a per person basis, a private jet is between 5-14 times more polluting than your average commercial airline. So, while the private jet industry needs to be grounded once-and-for-all, it’s also time to cancel frequent flier programs if we want to start keeping oil in the ground for future generation’s food production.
Oil reserves with need to be ring-fenced for food production because battery-driven tractors and combine harvesters will need to be much smaller than today or they will be too heavy and will compact and damage soil, reducing its productivity.
So now is the time to decide what’s more important, the luxury private jet industry, providing unnecessary services to unthinking celebrities or saving the oil for food production in the future because a move to battery-driven tractors cannot happen at the scale to feed us? Is it really more important to indulge the whims of the elites now than to secure a future for humanity?
When it comes to those with a large disposable income, and here I’m talking about more people than the 1%, your current consumption choices of non-essential and luxury goods are critical to a more equitable future and a transition to renewables at a manageable scale.
In Australia, the average weekly disposable (after-tax) income for the top 5% of earners is AU$6,796 (for the top 10% of earners it is AU$5,230). When you have access to this much money on a weekly basis, it is too easy to get into the habit of unnecessary spending, it becomes an unthinking habit and even an addiction for some.
As long as social status and status anxiety remain linked to consumption, we will happily destroy our children’s future to satisfy our aspirations, a tragic state of affairs. This has to leave you wondering about the unacknowledged mental health problems associated with this callousness and irrationality.
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Lynn Johnson is a physicist by education and has worked as an executive coach and a strategy consultant for over 20 years. In her work she pushes for systemic change, not piecemeal solutions, this includes campaigning for modernising the legal trade in endangered species, to help tackle the illegal wildlife trade.