I was just listening to an old Costing the Earth on consumerism. A Chinese official was quoted as saying that we in the West couldn’t criticise the Chinese growth in damaging consumerism, because we’d been consuming damagingly for the last 200 years. (I’ve read similar arguments in the Comments columns on Grauniad articles.) While it’s true that we have, his argument is rubbish.
Essentially, it’s an argument that I used to get at school all the time, and that every teacher knows. It goes like this.
Teacher: Stop talking!
Pupil: But he was talking too…
As you can appreciate, the pupil’s response is completely irrelevant, and does not change the fact that the pupil was talking and that the pupil needs to stop talking.
Similarly, the fact that we consume far too much does not take away the responsibility of the Chinese to be greener – or, for that matter, for every individual to accept personal responsibility for his or her consumption.
We must ALL look at our footprints and make sure that they’re not bloody great caterpillar tracks.