I can turn a fan on when it’s hot. I can plug my phone in to charge every night. I can watch the Tour de France Femme (the first edition of the Tour de France for women). I can do all these things and others with the knowledge that my power bill might go up but I won’t see many other consequences directly. This is the reality for many in the global north. It’s also something that is largely maintained by climate change mitigation scenarios.
On the other hand, more than 3 billion people live in energy poverty in poorer countries. In fact, the top 5% of wealthiest individuals use more energy than more than 50% of the world’s poorest. This, Hickel and Slamserak (2022), say has to change.
The argument is that it is not enough to focus on green energy, the energy rich have to reduce the amount of energy they use. But here’s the thing, I can make some changes in my home. I can either watch le tour femme or use my phone at one time for example, rather than writing a blog post on my phone while running le tour femme in the background. But these changes aren’t major. So where do we need to cut to make a big difference?
The authors state “Much of this excess energy is consumed by forms of production that support corporate profits and elite accumulation, such as fast fashion, sports utility vehicles, industrial meat, and planned obsolescence, which have little relevance to wellbeing.” So my switching to weekday vegetarian and buying more organic, free range meat for what I do eat? That’s good.
All my students who investigate fast fashion in my intro sustainability course and realize the impacts of these companies often declaring that they plan to change their purchase patterns? That’s good.
Attempting to repair and refurbish rather than buy things new? That’s good.
Trying, as hard as it is, to avoid planned obsolescence? Also good.
This doesn’t mean that I should leave all the lights burning in my home all day. But, what this points out to me is the wide ranging impacts of choices I make as a consumer. In short, it highlights the role of corporate profits in energy equality. The more we support fast fashion, the less energy will be available within climate mitigation plans, for those living in energy poverty.
So now, I can’t help asking, do I need a new shirt or does someone else need an electric light so that they can study in the evening and improve their education?