EDITOR’S COMMENT: The only thing worse than an eco-hypocrite is realising you are one.
When it comes to taking an eco-cheat day, I’m in illustrious company. Prince Harry devoted a chunk of the Vogue September issue, guest-edited by his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to espouse their determination to be kinder to the planet by having only two children . But he then drew widespread condemnation for reportedly boarding a private jet to Google’s climate camp in Sicily, alongside A-listers Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry (the last leg of Harry’s journey was apparently by helicopter). Dame Emma Thompson, the actor and inveterate campaigner against climate change, rallied Extinction Rebellion activists from atop a pink boat in Oxford Street — prompting a backlash when it transpired she’d flown 5,400 miles to attend. ‘Unfortunately, sometimes I have to fly,’ she told the BBC, ‘but I don’t fly nearly as much as I did because of my carbon footprint and I plant a lot of trees.’ Extinction Rebellion demands we reach zero emissions by 2025, long before the Government’s promise of 2050. Inevitably, we are falling short.
I don’t plant a lot of trees, which makes me feel even worse (to be fair, this is no loss to the arboreal community, given I splashed out on an £80 kumquat tree from a garden centre in a fit of pique and it is currently dying a very sad death in my garden). I cycle, but will hop in a non-electric cab when drunk. I eat less meat than I used to, but still default to a grab-and-go burger in a rush. Forgetting my keep cup won’t stop me guiltily purchasing a morning coffee. I’m a huge hypocrite. This sets me in an awkward position between two furious opponents at loggerheads. On the one hand, the finger-pointers: those lambasting the hypocrisy of celebrities doing their best and, well, me. Could I have taken an extra day off work to board a train to my holiday on the France-Spain border this year at a lower carbon cost? Yes. Was I too impatient to do so? Also yes.
Dr Gail Bradbrook points out that figures from climatologist professor Kevin Anderson show that 50 per cent of emissions come from 10 per cent of the population — so the burden should fall less on the individual than the state. Yet a climate of eco-anxiety is taking a toll on mental health. Caroline Hickman, a teaching fellow at the University of Bath and member of the Climate Psychology Alliance, who has been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years, says it’s imperative that we’re more forgiving. ‘That whole drive to perfectionism is worrying, particularly when it’s around young people. We’ve already got an epidemic of self-harming, body dysmorphia and eating disorders in young people, and we don’t need something else to feel bad about,’ she says.