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Environment: treading lightly on the Earth
Environment: treading lightly on the Earth

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5 Who’s responsible for reducing carbon footprints?

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action.

(Gore, 2007)

There are some things that we can do as individuals: making this an energy-efficient house and making smart transport choices. Then there are things that we can do in our community ... I’m chair of a local community wind farm ... and work with Low Carbon West Oxford, a group of local residents ... And then there’s a third strand where it’s really much more to do with government.

(Mark and Alice (2008), former owners of the eco-renovated house, Oxford)

As mentioned earlier, viewed from the consumption perspective, individuals and households directly or indirectly generate the demand for most of the goods and services produced by the economy.

Does this mean that individuals and households are responsible for reducing the CO2 and other GHG emissions from all their consumption? Or are the businesses and industries that produce the goods and services at home and abroad mainly responsible? In this section you’ll be considering who is responsible: ‘I’ (as an individual consumer or citizen), ‘we’ (my household, workgroup, community) or ‘they’ (the government, business, other countries, and so on).