The Rich Man’s Burden

BY ALISHA SINGH, sophomore

The fundamental issue at the forefront of numerous planetary concerns is climate change. Recent predictions by scientists have revealed numerous issues showing significant problems surrounding the survival of the planet at its current state and its ability to continue to support modern human habits. Deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, and the overflow of trash have created a downward spiral for the health of the planet. Though many believe that individuals can vastly contribute to saving the Earth by changing personal habits, large corporations backed by the top 1% are truly responsible for the diminishing health of the planet and are the ones who really hold the power to reverse climate change.

The 2017 Carbon Majors Report by the Carbon Majors Database (CDP) found that only 100 companies are responsible for over 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Several major corporations like Chevron and ExxonMobil can be found on this list, along with coal and oil companies from around the world. Although individual action can contribute to combating climate change, it is unquestionable that only those with millions in their pockets can take action to make significant changes. According to the Renewable Electricity Futures Study, funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 80% of US electricity can be provided by renewable energy by 2050, but in order for this to happen, the government needs to put the right policies and measures in place. However, there are many obstacles that prevent this from happening. The Trump administration denies climate change, which keeps it from passing any legislation that could benefit the environment. In addition to this, our lawmakers are controlled by the fossil fuels lobby, representatives of large fossil fuel corporations, which causes them to create and pass legislation that would favor them. Once more, it is the powerful and the wealthy who are keeping the US from preventing air pollution, acid rain, and other consequences caused by the current energy sources.

People from around the world are looking for hazardous habits they can change in order to stop climate change; for instance, many have stopped buying from fast fashion companies, while others have become committed to minimalist lifestyles in order to produce less waste. These are great ways to do your part, but the problem is that unless companies stop their harmful practices, the situation is unlikely to change. According to Vox News, major companies like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret destroy or trash new and unsold merchandise rather than donating or attempting to sell it for a longer period of time. Consumers can try to buy secondhand from sustainable manufacturers, but only these companies can reverse the major damage they have done by changing their practices. Furthermore, cheap merchandise made out of harmful materials like plastic has several negative consequences. The factories that produce these products are usually in developing countries where they pollute the water and land around them through the illegal dumping of harmful chemicals. The workers in these factories are constantly exposed to dangerous machinery and toxic fumes along with disturbingly poor work conditions. These products also clog landfills around the world because it is easy for people to dispose of them due to their cheap and low quality. The average consumer can stop purchasing such products, but true change can only be made when their production is slowed down or comes to a stop. This is in the hands of the corporations that make these products and the stores that source from them; the individual consumer cannot and should not be held responsible for fixing the problem created by these large corporations. There exists a pattern of exploitation of the Earth by massive companies in order to make a profit and keep their business structure going. According to Vox News, in the 1980s, ExxonMobil’s own researchers informed management that because of global warming, change was needed both in their own products and throughout the whole fossil fuel industry. However, management ignored these concerns, instead denying climate issues. Corporations like ExxonMobil are run by the wealthy and powerful solely for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. The general public and the environment are not a concern for them. The problem here is that since they are the major perpetrators, only they can clean up the extensive damage they have created.

Undeniably, individuals can and should continue to engage in sustainable consumer practices in order to slow down the effects of climate change. However, it is important to understand that people can only make minimal contributions on a smaller scale when it comes to an issue of this size. In the end, it is the wealthy and powerful who are the ones who keep the planet on the path of ecological ruination. In order to make vital progress in the fight against climate change, it is the corporations that need to change their habits. For as long as companies continue to pollute the planet, the lower and middle classes will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change and will not have the money nor the resources necessary to protect themselves from such detrimental effects. It is necessary not only for those with the power and resources to start to take on their role in this situation and make actions to combat the pressing issue of climate change, but for the general public to become involved as well. The time has come to hold these companies accountable for their actions, as climate change is a problem that affects us all.

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