Paper Straws and Capitalistic Ploys
Climate change awareness is no stranger to us—lessons in history class as grade schoolers, outputs in capstone projects, and the recent uproar last April 7 caused by the arrest of protesting scientists seeking an immediate response to the crisis; you’d have to be living under a boulder to be unaware of the massive and irreversible effects of mankind’s industrial innovations on the environment.
There is no denying that an accumulation of our individual carbon footprint deals a great blow on the speed of global warming. Our individual comfort with easy transportation and food is inversely proportional to the earth’s well-being—this is why people have been encouraged to embrace a green and sustainable lifestyle of bamboo toothbrushes, vegan meals, and honeycomb packaging. These movements mean well, but the genuine climate change awareness comes with the acknowledgement that no amount of individual effort from your day-to-day consumers will greatly dent the goal of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
As with any systemic issue, eliminating the environmental issue we face is dependent on a plethora of matters—matters that cannot be changed overnight. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has mentioned that rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed in the next 3-5 years. Big fossil fuel industries are the main contributors, but are yet to take accountability due to the seat of power they hold in a capitalistic system that is known for cutting any corner to maximize profit. The development of lower-class countries are dependent on affordable means of production to develop their economy while upper income countries, albeit now sharing less of the percentage for global emissions, own the power to invest in sustainable means of production—especially after defining the foundation of development as emissions-galore for countries around the world.
Despite this irrefutable fact, the responsibility is once again placed on the day-to-day consumer’s shoulders by big corporations. At first glance, it may seem that they are helping the sense of urgency regarding the crisis at hand, but further observation only comes to show that business is business and that profit is still their main finish line. Ploys such as greenwashing still induce consumerism and never promote a truly eco-friendly lifestyle. For example, ecobags need to be used at least 104 times to make an impact on the environment despite statistics showing that they are only used 52 times on average, additionally with the dangers of microplastics from these bags being worn out in the future due to its nature of using plastic-based fibers like nylon. Restaurants and on-the-go food manufacturers switching to paper utensils and containers reduce the recyclability of the materials after their single use either way. More often than not, these paper utensils are also coated with wax finishes that remain harmful for the environment once disposed of. There is an endless amount of deliberation that comes with concluding a truly environmentally-friendly action due to plenty of different factors such as its means of manufacturing, delivery, usage, and disposal. There is truly no ethical consumption under capitalism.
Ultimately, the so-called fight for climate change is anti-poor. In the end, the two extremes found in the hierarchy of social class show that people are either brought to great prosperity or extreme poverty. Those who have no choice with regards to their consumption of cheap meals made from unethical food plants and usage of single-use bathing essential sachets due to living with day-to-day pay have no means to uphold an expensive and sustainable lifestyle for the sake of being eco-friendly. However, they are still the target of the call for action despite wealth and luxuries being an indicator of a higher carbon footprint. These people are merely getting by and trying to achieve a comfortable lifestyle at most, unable to afford thinking about their carbon emissions yet will remain the biggest victims of drastic changes in climate due to the lack of opportunity to have a proper living environment to begin with. Once we are met with an “uninhabitable planet,” is it truly unlivable for those who can afford to live on a different one?
Mere knowledge and advocacy for the reformation of a currently comfortable system can be a bit abstract compared to small personal actions such as deleting unnecessary emails, reducing water and electricity consumption, or transitioning to reusable essential items—and that’s okay. Acknowledgement is not a way to hamper individual efforts since it is still in everyone’s best interest to do your part in minimizing waste with the use of metal straws as long as there is mindful and considerate consumption, for unified action cannot be done so easily. Rather than no action at all, any efforts to minimize the environmental wounds we face are much needed.
It’s become common agreement that earth is our damsel in distress, yet most of her knights go into battle without knowing the true enemy. There is truly no straightforward way to eliminate the possibility of rapid climate change since the current system favors the easy way out. It’s time to quickly establish systems such as circular economies and bring environmentalists and scientists into power for research, development, and implementation of affordable low-carbon technology across the globe instead of shunning their ideas in exchange for business’ tendency to put ignorance and bliss forward in the current moment. It’s time to know what you are truly taking a stand for before it’s too late.
Kalmus, P. (2022, April 7). Climate scientists are desperate: We’re crying, begging and getting arrested. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/06/climate-scientists-are-desperate-were-crying-begging-and-getting-arrested
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. (2020, June 21). Who Is Responsible For Climate Change? – Who Needs To Fix It? [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipVxxxqwBQw
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Limos, M. A. (2019, August 15). Metal straws vs. plastic: Their impact on the environment. Esquiremag.ph. https://www.esquiremag.ph/culture/lifestyle/are-metal-straws-bad-for-the-environment-a00293-20190815
McFall-Johnsen, M. (2022, April 4). The world can turn around the climate crisis this decade, UN report confirms, but governments need to step up. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/climate-crisis-could-turn-around-this-decade-ipcc-report-2022-4
Osborne, M. (2022, April 13). Scientists stage worldwide climate change protests after IPCC report. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-stage-worldwide-climate-protests-after-ipcc-report-180979913/?fbclid=IwAR1vkhirTIBXkPB7Wv2wUTdKh7nw_c55ABQHTEqxrOg1EzAz6hAgj4qcG6w