The Weight of Environmentalism Shouldn’t Be On My Shoulders

Surprise! It’s capitalism…again

Jasmin Linton (she/her) // Contributor
Cameron Skorulski (he/him) // Illustrator

The common narrative on how we can curb global warming starts with remembering to take a shorter shower and learning about the three R’s in elementary school (reduce, reuse, recycle). Around the world we are increasingly urged to take action to help mitigate its impacts. From reducing personal carbon footprints to adopting sustainable lifestyle choices, the emphasis on our singular responsibility in combating climate change can be pervasive. Is our individual role that significant? These solutions, though they are good practices, are tiny, miniscule contributions implemented to distract us from the real problem: white-collared, hypocritical corporations. 

If we look at the difference in impactful changes made by an individual and contrast it against a company, in any professional realm, the amount of impact is blatantly different. Something akin to putting out a forest fire with a squirt gun when the real culprits are hoarding firetrucks and air tankers. The focus on our individual carbon footprint overlooks the significant role big corporations and billionaires play in global warming and takes away their accountability.

Everyday people are constantly reminded of their carbon footprint and encouraged to reduce their impact on the environment, whether that be through habits such as biking to work or sorting garbage. And while personal choices do matter, they pale in comparison to the colossal footprint of these influential, multinational corporations. Yet, that narrative of individual responsibility persists, perpetuating feelings of guilt and inadequacy among ordinary people.

 bbWe’re bombarded with ads for eco-friendly products, where the going rate for a tote bag is $30. Because nothing says “saving the planet” like contributing to corporate profit in the process. That brings up the topic of greenwashing and its harm not only to the planet, but also with its spreading of misinformation. As a strategic marketing tactic masked as environmental conscientiousness, greenwashing poses a significant threat to genuine sustainability efforts. It isn’t just about misleading consumers; it’s about undermining real efforts to make a positive impact on the environment. It’s like putting a band-aid on a broken leg instead of fixing the problem at its core. And while it might make us feel like we’re doing our part, in reality, it’s just sweeping the bigger issues under the rug.

This is only one of many ways big corporations wield immense power and influence, and how they shape policies, driving consumption patterns on a global scale. Their relentless pursuit of profit often comes at the expense of us, the little guys, and the planet. Environmental regulations are routinely and openly disregarded in the pursuit of silly short-term gains. From deforestation to fossil fuel extraction, their actions have far-reaching consequences that cannot be curbed by individual acts of eco-consciousness.

Moreover, the burden of sustainability disproportionately falls on marginalized communities and developing nations, while the rich continue to profit from environmental exploitation. With no care for any shape or form of morality, the only goal of big corporations is to make a profit. It’s the indigenous communities fighting to protect their land from companies and low-income neighborhoods dealing with pollution from factories that are really getting the short end of the stick in a system that cares more about making money than saving the planet.

So how can we shift the focus from individual guilt to systemic change and collective action in addressing global warming? We must reframe the conversation around climate responsibility to center on systemic change and address the root causes of environmental degradation. ​​The collective impact of individual actions is limited without broader engagement and advocacy for systemic change. Mass mobilization, community organizing and political activism are crucial for holding governments and corporations accountable for their contributions to climate change. They are just some of the ways we can begin pushing for transformative policies and initiatives.

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