NBC launched a site where people can confess their climate crimes. “Even those who care deeply about the planet’s future can slip up now and then. Tell us: Where do you fall short in preventing climate change? Do you blast the A/C? Throw out half your lunch? Grill a steak every week? Share your anonymous confession with NBC News.” That’s right, climate change is your fault, and the responsibility to fix the entire world rests on your shoulders. But now you can own your climate sins, right here, publicly on NBC.
The confessional categories are Plastics, Meat, Energy, Transportation, Paper, and Food Waste. One wonders how the creators of the site could have overlooked the potential for this climate change confessional to be taken over by trolls. The people the creators were probably hoping for, the “whoa is me I left the water running when I brushed my teeth, I am the worst person in the entire universe, please flog me now” didn’t show up as much as the people who absolutely will not apologize for air conditioning the entire neighborhood. I learned not to run the water while brushing teeth from “The Cosby Show,” but probably that lesson is bunk, considering the source.
Everyone is so tired of feeling shitty about everything, that they didn’t want to confess all the myriad little horrible things we do every day that destroy the world. We could all blather on about our guilt at having woken up, turned on the lights (wasting electricity), flushed the toilet (wasting water), driven our cars (burning fossil fuels) (well, not really me, because I don’t even have a license, so there), or we could mock the entire enterprise.
The public of the internet went with option number two, and it’s a good thing they did, because confessing wrongdoing that is part of a pervasive lifestyle choice is an absolutely useless undertaking.
First off, the confession stops with the confession. The penance is the confession, and no further action is required other than continuing to feel bad about it.
Second, society isn’t going to change all at once in exactly the right direction to fix everything that has been done wrong, without having that actually result in a million other unintended wrong things. All actions are compounded, and everything we do has consequences that splooge out at the edges like cream cheese from the sides of a bagel.
It’s hard enough being alive and getting your bills paid and your kids to school without over analyzing every single action from whether or not egg shells can go in the compost to forgetting to bring your reusable tote to Trader Joe’s. Also if you really dig into the global supply chain, every single thing we consume is a crime, every Fit Bit recorded step increases our carbon footprint.
The premise of NBC’s sitcom “The Good Place” is that admittance to the afterlife is based on a strict points system wherein every action a human being takes on earth is scored, and at the time of death, their points are tallied. If they have enough, they go to the good place, and if they’re not, they go to the bad one. Basically, no one has gotten into the good place for the last 521 years.
The reason given is that life has become too complicated, and that every action, no matter how small, has repercussions that ripple bad results out across the world like a stone thrown in a pond. Drinking almond milk is bad because of bees and things. Sending clothing donations is bad because it disrupts indigenous textiles trades. Driving a car is bad, obviously. Manufacturing is obviously a total disaster, what with dyes and waste and run-off and child labor. Speaking of child labor, don’t eat chocolate. Giving money to a homeless person is bad because the person uses the money for drugs.
We carry around so much weight that is made of the inadvertent bad stuff we do while trying to be good people that it’s a perverse pleasure to read some of these confessions. Intermixed with a few earnest admissions of guilt about running the AC too cold, throwing out plastic utensils, ordering too much take out, are gems like these:
Meanwhile, at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, students apologized to plants for all the wrong they’d done to their brethren.
We’re so sure that everything bad is the fault of humanity, and that humanity itself is a net bad, but apologizing to flora and confessing our human privilege will not change anything. It’s almost as though we don’t actually want to change, we just want to be forgiven for feeling bad about the fact that we’re going to keep torturing turtles with plastic straws.