Why Blaming The 100 Worst Polluters is A Mistake

The blame game has reared its ugly head yet again, but the focus has moved from bankers after the financial crisis to blaming polluters. In an article published by The Decolonial Atlas on the 27th of April 2019 titled “Names and Locations of the Top 100 People Killing the Planet” the people at the head of the world’s 100 “most polluting companies” have been listed.

Blaming and pointing fingers at the one hundred most prolific polluters is dangerous, not so much because of what it does say but rather because of the volumes it does not say. It offers people easy targets, 100 of them, yet it does not inspire deeper thought about society as a whole or indeed the self. There is no reflection here, just an attempt to harness a growing frustration and anger which is simmering just below the surface of humanity.

There are three key points from the article I will address.

“Their business model relies on the destruction of the only home humanity has ever known.”

Is it “their business model”? No, of course it’s not, it is the underlying systems model which every business follows. Some may do more harm than others, but this is only a matter of degrees of harm. There are no sustainable businesses on our planet as they all fall into the trap of demanding repeat and growing custom in order to remain a profitable enterprise.

“Meanwhile, we misdirect our outrage at our neighbours, friends, and family for using plastic straws or not recycling.”

But “we” don’t, not all of us. An expanding, although at a slow and incremental pace, number of people do comprehend to degrees the underlying systemic failure of our social model and work to raise awareness of our social choices and impacts. It is about respecting that while we can not have a grand impact individually with enough of us being conscious of our choices we can aggrandise our impacts in a positive way, driving change from the bottom up. Not with violence or aggression but with noncompliance.

“If there is anyone who deserves the outrage of all 7.5 billion of us, it’s these 100 people right here.”

There is no one, or small select group deserving of this collective anger or hate. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Our collective lamentation should be directed at the underlying system which has created a social contract describing this is the way business should be conducted. A system which beseeches us all to act as regular consumers to drive this lumbering social machine forward to inevitable decline. You don’t hate or blame your friend for winning a game of Monopoly.

These people may offer a face to deeper feelings of social injustice yet, this injustice is not the fault of these people. They are simply playing the game as described. Sure they may massage the rules and push particular boundaries but, ultimately they are operating for the most part in a way our overarching social model has described they should.

Pointing our social finger at these people for being polluters is a cop out. It offers us the comfort of blame without the discomfort of profound intellectual consideration of the underlying social mechanics generating this outcome.