Personal responsibility is an essential part of effective environmental change

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

I agree with your June 21 editorial as far as it goes about Berkeley making grandiose environmental promises without concrete programs to implement them. And your strong inference is quite correct: The year 2030 is much too far in the future to achieve the necessary goal of eliminating fossil fuel use in Berkeley.

However, that editorial totally fails to account for lack of personal responsibility for environmental problems, nor does it discuss the massive individual overconsumption, from which Berkeley is not an exception, that along with overpopulation is the root cause of all environmental problems. For example, there was an opportunity to get an express bus route along Telegraph Avenue a while back, but selfish Berkeley drivers revolted against the loss of parking on Telegraph that the route would have necessitated. And even in this highly urbanized area with very good public transit, most people still selfishly drive. And your paper railed against increasing parking fees for students living at University Village. If Berkeley is even to become truly “fossil fuel-free” or have “fossil-fuel-free streets,” the people in Berkeley must give up their cars. To be clear, there are many other very serious harms caused by use of fossil fuels besides global warming, so becoming “carbon neutral” isn’t good enough.

There’s no point in just looking everywhere except to oneself when trying to fix environmental problems. Industrial society amounts to war against the Earth, and we must all do our part to help reverse this. Blaming the city of Berkeley for lack of action to eliminate fossil fuel use while failing to utter a single word about its residents who refuse to give up driving rings totally hollow. To paraphrase Jesus, before you criticize others, look in the mirror. (And I’m not even Christian!)

Jeff Hoffman is a Berkeley resident.