It was a comment in response to a post about the urgency of forestalling climate catastrophe.

“All I know is that we have friends who have a hybrid car. They could not get up our driveway. We had to pull it up our driveway using a tow rope with our Jeep. I am not giving up my car.”

Oh, sweet pea. I am sorry that is all you know. There’s so much else.

All around you, people are making choices in their daily lives that must baffle you. They are paying more for items that aren’t packaged in plastic. They’re voting to tax themselves for greenspaces. They’re checking the tags in their clothing to make sure they’re not supporting slave labor. They’re choosing to live where they don’t need a car at all. Maybe they’ve found out that animal agriculture is the biggest driver of climate change and environmental devastation, and they’ve quit eating meat. They’re doing these things because they have learned some stuff about the world, and they’re unable to keep operating as they had before they learned it. It becomes a moral choice for them.

What they’re not doing is changing their behavior in order to shame you. Something about your statement leads me to suspect you think your friends bought a hybrid car because they think they’re better than you. But what do you do when you find out something you’re doing is hurting others? Maybe it’s something you didn’t realize before, but once you learned better, wouldn’t you change? I’m sure you would. Maybe that’s what they’re doing: trying to do less harm.

Of course their hybrid is still burning fossil fuel. And this is what is going to make our planet uninhabitable, in a matter of a few short lifetimes. It’s a big deal. If you knew we had only ten years to get off fossil fuel altogether or risk an unlivable planet, wouldn’t you embrace a solution? Maybe not–because there is so little one person can do to affect such a massive problem. It needs to be addressed on a national and world-wide level.

But here’s a related massive problem: we are operating under a system of profit-driven capitalism that does not begin to account for the costs of enterprise. Shouldn’t corporations be required to pay for the harms they cause? Should they be able to destroy our environment without any consequence? Should you be able to get away with poisoning your neighbor’s well? We put people in prison for knocking over the corner store; why do we reward people who endanger every single life on the planet?

So nobody is going to confiscate your Jeep. You can keep your Jeep. But maybe gasoline should be $250 a gallon. Maybe that’s what it would take to mitigate the harm done by the extraction and burning of buried carbon. It’s not meant to be punitive–it’s the cost of doing business. You might decide to make some different choices.

Seem like a lot to pay? A few decades ago someone had the idea of pegging gasoline at $5 a gallon. That was a lot at the time. People would use less, more efficient vehicles would be on the market, and the excess tax would be devoted to changing our infrastructure toward a more sustainable plan. It was a good idea. A number of things we could have done a few decades ago would have made things a lot easier now, but we didn’t do them. And now we’re out of time. It might even be too late.

I don’t blame you or your Jeep. It’s not your fault. There are real criminals involved in this scheme to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of literally everyone else. But it would be a good thing, for starters, to take a step back from your driveway and see how big the picture really is.