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Fiddling with plastics while the planet burns

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In his justifiably bleak piece (Capitalism is killing the planet – it’s time to stop buying into our own destruction, 30 October), George Monbiot claims that the existential crisis facing humanity has arisen in spite of our “greater intelligence” and “highly evolved consciousness”. In this aspect of his argument, he is wrong. Consciousness is an evolutionary process and, in terms of how far we have progressed, we are still in our infancy. As a result, we are not yet able to see the bigger picture and our place not only in the world but in the cosmos. We cannot think much beyond our next car, meal or overseas holiday – all of them contributors to systemic environmental collapse.

This is especially true of our political leaders, who cannot think much beyond the next election. Until we, as a species, attain a much higher level of consciousness, politicians are unlikely to place the planet ahead of economic interests, as this largely determines whether or not they hold on to power. It would be misplaced, therefore, to expect a major breakthrough on climate change any time soon. Monbiot rather dismisses the small things that we, as individuals, can do because, he argues, in the absence of seismic change, reducing our use of coffee cups or plastic makes little difference. Having not eaten meat for 15 years I’ve resolved this week of Cop26 to stop eating dairy. This small gesture will of course make not one iota of difference to climate change, but at least I can feel a little better about myself as we hurtle towards the apocalypse.
Quentin Macfarlane
Auchmithie, Angus

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George Monbiot criticises thinking about climate change that focuses on “the tiny issues such as plastic straws and coffee cups, rather than the huge structural forces driving us towards catastrophe. We are obsessed with plastic bags.”

Meanwhile, on the Money pages of the print edition, an article asks how supermarkets rate in their response to the climate crisis. Four of the five subheadings in the article are about plastics or packaging, which, while worthy environmental issues in themselves, have little or no impact on climate change. The fifth is about cycle racks. Perhaps your Money journalists could read the Monbiot article and try again?
Stephen Warde
Cottenham, Cambridgeshire

Your article on supermarkets’ progress to achieving “net zero” was interesting. Unfortunately, the main focus was overwhelmingly to what supermarkets are doing to end single-use plastic.

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There was no mention of the critical role of supermarkets in ensuring the products of rainforest deforestation do not end up in our shopping baskets. I love my morning coffee, but only a fraction of the coffee products for sale in British supermarkets have any claim to be sustainably sourced.

Until we can be confident the products we buy are free from deforestation, stopping use of plastic wrapped cucumbers is little more than a gesture.
Debbie Martyr
London

I am loth to criticise the Guardian on its climate coverage, but in an issue that contains George Monbiot’s excellent piece on trivial distraction from the existential threat, giving Abba’s return predominance on the cover rather makes the point.

To paraphrase Adorno, to celebrate pop while the planet burns might be seen as barbaric.
Tom Hardy
London

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