being human, the future face of carbon

Imagine one day going shopping for carbon credits, much in the same way you would for Fairtrade labels. Imagine the hidden scars of greenhouse gas emission impacts meaning that much to you. Not just yourself, but your friends and family too.

There is a human cost to climate change. The trouble is, that message is often lost under complex scientific theory, CSR macroeconomics and political rhetoric. We can’t quite grasp it in a way that feels good to us, like, really good. It doesn’t give us a warm glow because we can’t relate to it. In cultural terms, it remains somewhat nebulous.

For us to embrace carbon and get emotional about it we must start forging a humanitarian connection to it so that it becomes a lifestyle choice - much in the same way as ethically-sourced goods or organic food. But for that to happen, we need to take it out of Whitehall and out of the boardroom. It needs to be de-politicised.

Consumers are becoming a discerning bunch. When they buy Body Shop shampoo or Traidcraft clothes, they do so in the hope they have played a small part in helping to protect people’s livelihoods and communities. There is a conscience there that carbon could tap into too. On a mental level, it’s about associating air miles with asthma attacks or water efficiency with happy farmers.

Carbon should not be an elitist issue, consigned to the cupboards of climate scientists and chief sustainability officers. We all have a footprint, and we all have spending power. It is how we exercise that power in the future that will really determine how industry reacts and adapts to our changing climate. Basically, if we demand low-carbon, we will get low-carbon.

I for one think it has real potential to become the Fairtrade of the future. But for that to happen, it needs to plug into our hearts. It needs to carry a human face.

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