Climate Corner: A little humility might be in order

Aug 12, 2023

Vic Elam

I find that there are a lot of people who seem to have a sense of privilege when it comes to possessions. I don’t and cannot pass judgment on anyone but offer an argument that maybe we should all consider the impacts of our decisions big and small.

For instance, family sizes are typically much smaller than they used to be and yet I see a lot of new construction homes that are very large. According to the MIT Climate Portal “New homes in the U.S. have grown 45% in size since the 1970s, requiring much more material per home.” Rather than owning a home that is a status symbol, maybe we should consider the energy required to heat and cool all that space; the forest that was cut to make room for the house and yard; the construction materials that resulted in deforestation, mining, etc.; and the roof surface that sheds water rather than letting it soak in to recharge the aquifer and sheds water much quicker than natural conditions contributing to erosion and flooding.

The argument is similar when it comes to what kind of vehicle we drive. What if the script was switched and people who drive Priuses or fully electric vehicles were revered for their contribution to the climate crisis. I often find drivers of large, powerful, fuel-thirsty vehicles are somehow put-off by fuel conserving vehicles and worse by pedestrians or cyclists, as if they are better because they can push down hard on that gas pedal.

Even the small things add up to a huge difference — getting away from single-use plastics, reducing the mowed area of a lawn and restoring to trees or native plants. Everyday consumer goods such as clothing consumes tremendous amounts of resources to produce. There is something to be said for making things last or buying things that last in the first place.

What if we considered the global impact of our decisions — climate induced migration and hunger; sea level rise; extreme weather events and fire events; changes in weather patterns such as monsoon seasons; sea ice break-up and permafrost thawing; I could go on. We must look no further than in the mirror to see who more than anybody is responsible for these events. The U.S. has contributed more greenhouse gas emissions than any other nation in the world over the years, especially when measured per capita. So, when migrants from impacted countries come knocking at our door for help, maybe we should consider that we may be at fault for that need.

This is not intended to shame anyone, and I can certainly make improvements in my lifestyle. I just hope that this gives you food for thought when you make buying decisions. We are all in this together and with a little humility and working together we can make positive change.


Vic Elam is a Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action member, an avid outdoorsman, and contributor to organizations that share his concern for our environment and the children we borrow it from