Individual Action, II

The question of individual action matters is usually answered as follows:

Antagonists Individual action is a waste of time; we need system change. Individuals don’t cause the problems; it’s big cooperations, the oil industry, and a few super-rich people. They are the ones that need to change. An individual’s Carbon Footprint is so low compared to the industry that it doesn’t make sense to waste energy on this. You are the system. Individuals can’t act sustainably because they are inherently part of an unsustainable system.

Proponents Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” - Dalai Lama. “The personal is political.” - Carol Hanisch. If you act sustainably as an individual, you signal virtues that others might then copy. If every individual acted sustainably, then we wouldn’t have those problems in the first place. You are the system. When individuals act sustainably, the whole system transforms.

Both sides have valid points, and if you lean towards one side or the other depends primarily on your worldview. A rather mechanistic worldview will make it more likely that you don’t propose individual action, and a rather relational worldview will make it more likely that you endorse individual action.