Anchor Staff Writer
For a long time, we have been told that if we reduce, reuse and recycle, that will be enough and the climate crisis will solve itself. Many of us are not so naive anymore. We’ve seen from an extended, more intense wildfire season in the West, to Texas’s severe snowstorm which left millions freezing and 21 dead, to the perpetually worsening hurricanes. The climate crisis is not just coming-- it’s already here. For people in the global south, it’s been here for a while already. Yet, if we don’t act fast enough, it will be worse. The problem is, as average individuals, we can’t enact the change we need ourselves.
In the 1970s fossil fuel corporations began to suspect that their lucrative industry was causing severe damage. Exxon investigated and indeed found they were responsible and the practice that filled their coffers to the brim was destroying the planet. Fossil fuel corporations, shockingly, did not take this as a reason to stop destroying the earth for immense profit. Instead, they waged a mass misinformation campaign to protect their business. Other fossil fuel companies followed suit.
Now? 71% of all pollution comes from just 100 companies. Ordinary people aren’t responsible-- corporations are. And yet, the majority of the focus placed on solving the climate crisis has been put on individual action. If all of us just behaved environmentally friendly enough everything would be fine. We know from the data that is simply not the truth.
Corporations love to ask what their customers are doing to eliminate their carbon footprint. Those very corporations invented the “carbon footprint” to shift blame from themselves onto individuals. Even Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, focused his message on encouraging individuals to “think global, act local” to take steps to eliminate our waste. The thing is, waste only exists because of our current system.
None of us chose to live in a world where everything is packaged in plastic, where we need to guzzle oil to get from place to place. For pollution to stop, our system needs a massive change in our economic system. Some say to buy more sustainably, but sustainable often means more expensive, putting the hardship on the least culpable and most in need.
This is not to say you shouldn’t try to eliminate waste, shop sustainably and partake in other efforts to stop the crisis if you are able. Going vegan for instance is touted by climate scientists as the single most impactful action an individual can make. It will help. But even that is not enough.
For change to happen, we need substantial legislation. The Green New Deal, which was reintroduced last week, would be enormously helpful. Going further, we know these corporations know what they are doing, and so for everyone who asks, “How would we pay for a Green New Deal?” there are multiple answers. The data shows with the amount of damage from the crisis we would be paying for more later if we do not address it now. Furthermore, we can and should sue and dissolve these companies responsible for all the damage they have done, then use the money to repair what they destroyed. Some have already sued polluting countries, including the United States, for their violations of children’s human rights by knowingly taking away our futures and those of the generations that will follow.
To save our planet, we need to put pressure on those with the power to make change. Protests are crucial for this. Some people have also taken to “bullying” corporations online in response to corporations asking about customers’ carbon footprints. I encourage everyone to do this if it suits them. Polluters thrive when the onus of the crisis falls on their consumers instead of on them-- calling out that hypocrisy makes it more difficult for companies to shirk the blame. Numerous politicians on both sides of the aisle are in the pockets of fossil fuel corporations. Status-quo Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi like to make a good show of caring about the planet, but there is a reason why they never enact substantial change-- it is not profitable when they are getting massive campaign donations from those corporations.
The climate crisis will not affect everybody equally. Marginalized, poorer groups are already being hit harder. There will be shortages of basic necessities. Those who contributed least to the crisis will be the first to experience them. The climate crisis is no inconvenience to the 1% and wealthy corporations, it’s a new opportunity. The uber-rich know that the crisis will cause immense shortages and that many people will not survive. This does not matter because they will still continue to make money. Last December, in response to increasing scarcity, water became a stock traded by those on Wall Street.
If we are going to stop this and save our planet, there needs to be real change. We have to loudly let politicians and corporations know we will not tolerate their exploitation anymore. We need to do it now because if we wait any longer, there won’t be time left.