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Old 05-03-2019, 07:53 PM
Leaper is offline
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Individual vs. corporate responsibility for the state of the environment


For the purposes of this discussion, letís assume that the frequently repeated factoid that a handful of corporations produce many times more pollution, waste, and general environmental destruction than all individual citizens combined worldwide is true (mostly because I think itís still an interesting question).

This belief/fact leads many to think that corporations and governments asking individuals to be more eco-friendly is a diversion so that said corporations donít have to change or lose profit, and that the only real way individuals can meaningfully contribute is to target those corporations, either with public pressure, lawmaking, or something more... extreme.

So my question is, how much, if at all, does the sheer weight of corporate environmental fuckery absolve the general habits and lifestyle of the everyday middle class or lower American/world citizen?
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:03 PM
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So my question is, how much, if at all, does the sheer weight of corporate environmental fuckery absolve the general habits and lifestyle of the everyday middle class or lower American/world citizen?
It doesn't absolve anything. You shouldn't base your actions on what other people, corporations, or countries are doing. You should base your actions on what is the right thing to do.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:36 PM
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It doesn't absolve anything. You shouldn't base your actions on what other people, corporations, or countries are doing. You should base your actions on what is the right thing to do.
I suppose, but if you’re going to expend energy to save the environment, why isn’t it wise to spend less time sorting recyclables or spending extra on an electric car and more time pushing on big business and spending the money on, say, political candidates? Or at least to regard corporate encouragement of consumer eco-friendliness as nothing but a cynical ploy to foist their massive responsibility, and its associated costs, elsewhere?

Last edited by Leaper; 05-03-2019 at 08:36 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:37 PM
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It doesn't absolve anything. You shouldn't base your actions on what other people, corporations, or countries are doing. You should base your actions on what is the right thing to do.
What informs the determination of what the "right" thing to do is? Is it the right thing to do to recycle every product you consume/use that is able to be recycled?

Last edited by Ambivalid; 05-03-2019 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:37 PM
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I suppose, but if youíre going to expend energy to save the environment, why isnít it wise to spend less time sorting recyclables or spending extra on an electric car and more time pushing on big business and spending the money on, say, political candidates?
Why can't you do both?
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:50 PM
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Why can't you do both?
Finite energy. Given this, the energy available should be put to the most efficacious use.

Last edited by Ambivalid; 05-03-2019 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:11 PM
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What informs the determination of what the "right" thing to do is? Is it the right thing to do to recycle every product you consume/use that is able to be recycled?
I don't know. Is it?
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:12 PM
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Finite energy. Given this, the energy available should be put to the most efficacious use.
Sure. If someone said "I spend so much time recycling my own trash, that I didn't have time to chastise big corporations for their waste" then I'd be cool with it.
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:37 PM
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Sure. If someone said "I spend so much time recycling my own trash, that I didn't have time to chastise big corporations for their waste" then I'd be cool with it.
Its not an absence of time to chastise, it's an absence of awareness to realize that you've been snookered into a distraction while what really is the problem continues unabated.
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:43 PM
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Last edited by Ambivalid; 05-03-2019 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:50 PM
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Also, as information is accrued and knowledge expands, the understanding of what is "right" evolves along with it. That's why distraction is so effective. It prevents relevant information from being able to be factored in to people's decision making.

My understanding is it is not the right thing to do to spend time, energy and resources tackling a "problem" that isn't actually a problem. So i say its not the right thing to do to focus on personal recycling. Recycling is a scam.

Last edited by Ambivalid; 05-03-2019 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 05-03-2019, 10:09 PM
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Recycling is a scam.
Well, it just so happens that we agree
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Old 05-03-2019, 10:31 PM
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Well, it just so happens that we agree

Last edited by Ambivalid; 05-03-2019 at 10:32 PM. Reason: 'Cause that shit deserved 2 smilies.
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Old 05-04-2019, 03:06 PM
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I work in the lighting/electrical industry.

There is big money in sustainable construction and energy efficient products such as LED lighting. They also are behind lobbying for legislation to require the use of these products. The dealers and distributors have entire departments dedicated to getting government subsidies and rebates for commercial customers.

I once saw a trade pamphlet with a cover that read, in 60 point type

PEOPLE
PLANET
PROFITS

And I see a lot of wordplay around the word green. Cause it’s also the color of money.

Of course, the commercialization of sustainability has led us to ignore the simplest thing we can do. USE LESS STUFF. BUY LESS STUFF. Build a smaller home. Put two lightbulbs in each of those ceiling fixtures, not three. Eat your leftovers instead of tossing them and buying something else. Reuse what you can.

I’m a renegade. My big mouth can get me in trouble, like when I tell some rich guy that if he wants to be green, he should consider not building a 20,000 square foot house.

And recycling is a scam. And the laws that require it defeat the purpose. In another thread, someone mentioned that a greasy pizza box can ruin a whole batch of recycled cardboard. And I’m still going to recycle that greasy pizza box. Because if I don’t and there’s an address label on the box, my building will hit me with a fine. Because they’re scared the city will hit them with a fine. It’s a moneymaker for the city, nothing more.
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Old 05-04-2019, 05:38 PM
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In our area the greasy pizza box goes into the yard waste with food scraps. Nothing gets ruined. And that stuff gets composted and returned to customers in the spring.

While it is good to reduce packaging by buying things with less packaging, it is better to force companies to minimize packaging so that it is reduced for everyone whether or not they care.
And I'd be very happy if maximum profit goes along with minimal environmental damage. Win win.
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Old 05-04-2019, 07:49 PM
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The hypothetical is always wrong. I'm not sure why we need to find ways to force what could be complimentary things into being in conflict. The system is non zero sum.

The question is framed incorrectly. It should not be, which is more important, individual or corporate focus on the environment? Instead it should be, how can we focus both more on the environment, and do so in a way in which they encourage and empower each other's efforts.

To the extent that the question gets at something meaningful, there does need to be some more effort at making all the parts of the system more transparent and easy to track so everyone can make it work better from whatever position they find themselves in.
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Old 05-04-2019, 08:02 PM
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Because if I donít and thereís an address label on the box, my building will hit me with a fine.
Why would your address be on the pizza box?
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Old 05-05-2019, 05:20 AM
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I disagree with your premise, unless by a “handful” you mean several hundred worldwide industrial manufacturing, mining, and construction companies. Nevertheless, on the “absol[ution of] the general habits and lifestyle of the everyday middle class or lower American/world citizen”, the basic premise has to be collective responsibility. One person switching from a gas-guzzling car to a hybrid won’t move the needle on global pollution. 500 million people switching will. Also, businesses depend on customers and governments depend on citizens. If nobody’s buying gigantic 4x4’s, automobile corporations won’t be building them. Likewise, if a politician can get votes by pursuing a green agenda, he’ll pursue a green agenda. In both cases, the buying and political stance of individuals is what makes the difference.

I think you’re point is that individuals publicly promoting a green agenda are more effective than individuals quietly leading ascetic lifestyles. My opinion is that that’s mostly right. Most people’s bad actions aren’t caused by malice, but either laziness or greed. So to an extent, popularising a green agenda will influence people’s behaviour. However, my observation is that people are more motivated by self-belief that they are doing good than external negative forces telling them that they’re doing bad. So “The Earth is wonderful – let’s save it” is a better message than “Stop killing the Earth”. However, lots of green campaigners seem to focus on the second message. Also, both people and businesses respond to costs and incentives. So if there is going to be collective action towards positive environmental changes across society, their needs to be incentives for being environmentally responsible, and penalties for being environmentally irresponsible. Those incentives and penalties will ultimately have to come from governments. Which, while I acknowledge the effect of corruption, ultimately do respond to the will of the people.
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Old 05-06-2019, 04:33 PM
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Up to the Govt.


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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
Also, both people and businesses respond to costs and incentives. So if there is going to be collective action towards positive environmental changes across society, their needs to be incentives for being environmentally responsible, and penalties for being environmentally irresponsible. Those incentives and penalties will ultimately have to come from governments. Which, while I acknowledge the effect of corruption, ultimately do respond to the will of the people.
Spot on. The environment is an essential shared resource and that is why the government should regulate practices that endanger the environment.

If people were nice enough to just do the right thing without government intervention, we wouldn't need a government. But if I run a corporation and going green cuts my bottom line, I can't realistically take that option. If I raise prices, competitors don't, we go out of business, and I get fired. If I pass the cuts to shareholders I get fired (duh). If I layoff employees that tanks company morale plus productivity plus there's a chance for a PR disaster.

On the other hand there's a flipside. I can't go around advocating for new regulations that make my business less profitable no matter how much I may agree with their reasons. If I say the costs are going to consumers competitors will run ads against my company saying so much. All the same groups above will get pissed off at me. So I lobby for government incentives instead of penalties. Everybody who I depend on to keep my job is satisfied. This is what I think business executives think about with regards to environmentally friendly policies.

I don't think most people, on the other hand, care too much about the corporate costs of going green. They look at C-class salaries and bonuses and say, why not just cut his pay? There's some truth to this but I think executive pay is being hailed as the solution to too many problems, like a nest egg in a financially insolvent family.

I think it should just be the cost of doing business, which means the costs are passed down to the consumer. The only entities that can enact across-the-board rules would be the government regulation or industry self-regulation under threat of government regulation. Normal citizens who engage with their government are doing the right thing.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 05-06-2019 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:31 PM
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Why would your address be on the pizza box?
The places that I order from have some sort of computerized ordering system that prints address labels.

Of course, I could pull it off. Still, Iím in a large apartment building and we are supposed to sort our trash into assorted cans, bins and piles located in a common area. And I promise you an item the size of a pizza box is going to end up with the cardboard recycle no matter where I leave it initially. Another tenant or building employee would think it was a mistake and move it to the cardboard pile.
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Old 05-06-2019, 07:09 PM
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The places that I order from have some sort of computerized ordering system that prints address labels.

Of course, I could pull it off.
That doesn't seem like too much effort to be responsible and recycle. Obviously, your mileage varies.
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:51 AM
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Discussions like this are often misdirected. Progressive people brag about how environmentally-friendly they are and wonder why others aren't. And promise to buy their cereals from stores that recycle packing material.

But corporations are in business to make a profit ó some would even argue that it's a dereliction of their fiduciary duties to spend money without profit or coercion. And 95% of the public will take the easy way, and drown whatever efforts a few progressives achieve.

I've taken the liberty of emphasizing a sentence by one who "gets it":
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
... Also, both people and businesses respond to costs and incentives. So if there is going to be collective action towards positive environmental changes across society, their needs to be incentives for being environmentally responsible, and penalties for being environmentally irresponsible. Those incentives and penalties will ultimately have to come from governments. Which, while I acknowledge the effect of corruption, ultimately do respond to the will of the people.
Yes. Solutions not based on government incentives are just useless wanking. Note that people often follow the Categorical Imperative in a polling place, when they wouldn't in their daily life.

Reliance on government action is difficult in today's America, where liars, polluters and greedy kleptocrats spend much effort and money sowing distrust of government. But if our young people are awakened, the future may become more reality-based.
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:21 AM
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That doesn't seem like too much effort to be responsible and recycle. Obviously, your mileage varies.
Comprehend much? The conversation is about the difficulty in NOT recycling an item ( greasy pizza box) which outwardly appears to be recyclable, which NYC has deemed recyclable.

In my building the tenants are not allowed to take the trash out to the curb themselves. We put it into a common area for building personnel to manage. While we are responsible for the initial sorting, stuff gets thrown into the wrong bin all the time. Our super and his staff sort it out. So no matter where I place that pizza box, Iím pretty sure at the end of the week itís going to be tied up in that bundle with all the other pizza boxes and picked up as cardboard recycling.
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:00 AM
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I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to start by picking at the OP:

"letís assume that the frequently repeated factoid that a handful of corporations produce many times more pollution, waste, and general environmental destruction than all individual citizens combined worldwide is true"

This statement is either trivially true, or it is trivially false, depending on the definitions we choose, and those definitions matter to how we discuss the consequences.

It's trivially true that for direct emissions the world's industries produce the most pollution and environmental destruction, but they do so on behalf of the world's consumers, so we as consumers are on hook for our share of that. And how do you compare Shell oil's emissions to mine anyway? It's trivially true that it is larger, but that is a comparison that doesn't really make sense, it's more interesting to see what changes in Shell would mean for my consumption of their products.

Reducing individual responsibility and laying the blame on corporations is not much different from reducing national responsibility and blaming the rest of the world.

Coming from a small, oil producing and high carbon country I see the latter argument all the time. "Our emissions are tiny compared to China's, so us cutting our emissions in half do not matter. So stop shaming us about it!"

Of course it has less effect on the environment if I avoid flying as much as I can compared to becoming the president of United Airlines and cutting half of all flights, but that's not really a realistic action now, is it?

And there is of course need for government action, but that requires a public willing to go along, and that is less likely to happen if even the people who vote for government action aren't willing to voluntarily suffer the consequences.

We're responsible for our personal choices, they are what, in aggregate, creates corporate pollution and government action/inaction and influences the choices of those who make decisions that influence many individuals.
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:21 AM
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Corporations aren't some big alien robots or something. They're made up of people and exist to serve people. Just for example, if people stop using plastic straws, companies will stop making them. If people stop driving gasoline powered vehicles, automotive companies will stop making them, and oil companies will stop producing gas. If people stop buying hundreds of plastic disposable knickknacks, companies will stop wasting the massive amounts of energy that goes into producing prodigious amounts of disposable knickknacks. If people stop buying products encased in cubic feet of plastic garbage, companies will stop packaging their products encased in cubic feet of plastic garbage.

Blaming corporations is just a dodge. What they're really saying is "I don't feel like convincing millions of my peers to stop buying environment destroying garbage, instead let's just force the (much smaller number of) companies they buy from to not give them any choice in the matter". It's easier to compel the few than the many. But that doesn't mean the many won't be compelled, just indirectly, so the people doing the compulsion feel better about it.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:03 AM
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What they're really saying is "I don't feel like convincing millions of my peers to stop buying environment destroying garbage, instead let's just force the (much smaller number of) companies they buy from to not give them any choice in the matter". It's easier to compel the few than the many. But that doesn't mean the many won't be compelled, just indirectly, so the people doing the compulsion feel better about it.
The question is: should you convince your peers or should you convince your representatives?

~Max
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:38 AM
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Also, as information is accrued and knowledge expands, the understanding of what is "right" evolves along with it. That's why distraction is so effective. It prevents relevant information from being able to be factored in to people's decision making.

My understanding is it is not the right thing to do to spend time, energy and resources tackling a "problem" that isn't actually a problem. So i say its not the right thing to do to focus on personal recycling. Recycling is a scam.
Does this follow other issues as well?

Gun murders .... ban 'assault rifles'

I'm sure there are plenty other obvious choices as well. But all distraction can be seen as "but we've got to just do SOMETHING", and it's almost always the wrong tact.
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Old 05-07-2019, 11:59 AM
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The question is: should you convince your peers or should you convince your representatives?

~Max
Your chances of convincing your representatives are a whole lot better if you can also convince a lot of your peers.

-- Nobody can do everything. But most people can do more than one thing.

And even if the recycling is currently mostly getting dumped in the landfill because China quit buying it: if people keep recycling, this improves the chances of someone else finding a use for that part of the waste stream and becoming willing to take it.

(Around here they specifically state that they don't want the greasy pizza box in the recycle. Clean cardboard and paper only, please, not the greasy stuff.)
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Old 05-07-2019, 10:22 PM
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Comprehend much? The conversation is about the difficulty in NOT recycling an item ( greasy pizza box) which outwardly appears to be recyclable, which NYC has deemed recyclable.
If your city has deemed it recyclable, why are you making such a fuss about it?
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