I was amused by a news report on climate change which included interviews from a parking lot at a Trader Joe’s. It was clear that in the reporter’s mind brand identification was the best way to locate people who might be interested in specific political issues and that, in this case, the intersecting set between “foodies” and “enviros” would serve him well. Be that as it may, the irony of being located smack dab in the middle of a totally car centered environment was completely lost on everyone and went totally unmentioned.
The high point of the entire was piece was the quote in response to a question about how to limit climate change. The man in question, from Northfield, Massachusetts said: “Certainly by consuming less, by living more sustainably, by living closer to home, that does a huge thing to cut down on fossil fuel use and that’s one of the main drivers of climate change.” Leaving aside the “living closer to home” line, (“I actually live right in my home”) which actually does have meaning despite its tautological appearance, we are talking about someone who appears to be 30+ miles from home and negotiating the purchase and sale of comestibles.
I learned just yesterday of a concept called “unconscious competence“, or a knowledge and ability connected to a behavior which are so deeply held that the person in question is not even aware at a conscious level that they have any special abilities or knowledge. In the context of climate change in the United States this unconscious competence is possessed by the poor living in walkable urban centers. They don’t “consume” automobiles or fuel therefor. When they do use mechanized transport it is usually public in nature and produces much less in the way of greenhouse gases per mile. They walk to do their everyday errands. They live in apartments or small homes and use much less energy to heat and cool their living space. They use less water. Of course, if you interviewed one of them about their greenhouse gas emissions their response might be that they’re not fighting climate change, they’re just trying to save enough money to buy a sandwich.