As America is increasingly wracked by the effects of climate change—storms, drought, forest fires, and floods—the debate over how to tackle this crisis is intensifying. Some people, like Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are suggesting a wholescale transformation of the American economy to phase in green jobs and transition to 100% renewable energy within the next decade.
But there are others who propagate the canard that the American consumer is to blame for climate change. If only Americans recycled more and “tightened their belts”, then we wouldn’t be in this mess.
However, this narrative conspicuously takes the blame away from the real culprits of our climate crisis: big industry and agriculture. Take water, for example. My family is using a few water-saving methods that will save us over 7,000 gallons (26,500 liters) of water a year. Wow! That’s enough water to fill a small bus! If every family in America did the same, surely we would be able to fix our water shortage?
Nope. If every family in America consumed 7,000 fewer gallons of water per year, we wouldn’t have enough water to fill even 10% of the Hoover Dam. In fact, if every household in America did not use even a single drop of water, America would reduce its water use by just 8% per year. That’s because, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, the other 92% of the water is used by agriculture and industry.
The same goes for pollution and carbon emissions. 71% of global emissions are caused by just 100 companies. Out of those hundred companies, the top 20 emit 35% of all emissions.
But, it is a convenient narrative. It shifts the burden away from the orchestrators of this climate crisis and instead indicts the individual, who is largely powerless to affect the climate. While you’re riding your bike to work and bagging your groceries in paper bags, they’re running away with the money. Instead of treating the disease, we are subsidizing the symptoms.
And for what? So that some people can continue to make a lot of money? While California families are ordered to conserve water and suffer drought, booming almond companies are allowed to spend a stupefying 1,900 gallons (7200 liters) of water per pound (.45 kg) of almonds. While you get to deal with earthquakes, smog, higher cancer rates, and flammable tap water, Dan and Ferris Wilks and companies like BP get to accumulate billions of dollars. Why does personal responsibility apply only to us and not to them?
And now, these exact same people, after having caused the crisis to begin with, are now selling themselves as the saviors. The aforementioned BP has promised to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while at the same time emitting more carbon dioxide in 2020 than The United Kingdom. How kind of them! At least they’re smiling while they’re twisting in the knife.
I’m not against acting in an environmentally responsible way; I do it myself. But don’t fall for the narrative that the individual is to blame for climate change, when it’s big business spreading misinformation to protect their pockets. Let’s actually enact sweeping legislation on a government level so that we can all live in a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable world—after all, it’s the only one we got.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.