Your shame will destroy this planet

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Greta Thunberg is awesome and I wish more people were just like her. But personal shame can not save the planet from destruction. Feeling shame will not stop the coal companies from poisoning the air and water. There is no reason why people should feel embarrassed about the fact that they have a biological body that needs to consume resources so as to enjoy life. Limiting the damage done by corporations requires anger, courage and careful thought, but never any personal shame. It is altogether appropriate to shame corporations for their wastefulness, but it is not appropriate for young people to feel shame about the minor pleasures in life, such as travel. Feeling personal shame about travel is on the verge of becoming the new anorexia, that is, the new internalized self-hatred that causes some young people (mostly women) to try to shrink down their impact on the world to a pathological degree. To the extent that your shame causes you to fight your own desires, instead of fighting the desires of the corporations, then your shame contributes to the destruction of the planet.

And what if mostly women take up this call, to feel ashamed of travel? I’ve already seen that happen with recycling: all of my female friends recycle, but few of my male friends do. Consider the result if the same pattern continues to travel. Then it simply becomes a modern sounding way to enforce some very traditional rules. Men will continue to travel the world, but women will not. And what is gained by this? It does nothing to save the planet; the environment sees no benefit, the only real result is that the lives of women become limited in ways that the lives of men are not. This is primitive misogyny, disguised as something modern.

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