Green with shame

IN SOME HOUSEHOLDS ’tis the season to be jolly cross. A young generation of climate Scrooges will be on the warpath this Christmas, ticking everyone off for the air miles travelled, Santa’s carbon footprint, gorging on meat and the sacrilege of lighting a log fire. It is not as if, like Dickens’s Scrooge, they think that “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” After all, boiling and burying would also release carbon dioxide. But as emissions rise, the killjoys are resorting to shame and repulsion as weapons against environmental evils. It is not just parents who are in the line of fire. Whole industries are, too.

From flygskam, or flight shame, to spurning fast-fashion to shunning meat, a relatively small number of young consumers exert a growing influence on big corporations—and politicians who regulate them. It is easy to dismiss the zealots. By and large they are Western, wealthy, well-educated and “woke”. Much larger numbers fret about how far their next pay-cheque will stretch to trouble themselves with issues of environmental sustainability. And it is unclear to what extent shoppers in the developing world, where airlines, garment-makers and food producers see growth for decades to come,...



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