Thursday, April 22 marks the annual celebration of Earth day.
Humans are destroying this planet. I don’t believe this is new information to the majority of us. We have all seen the increasing number of natural disasters, the waste being dumped on the land and in the sea, and even a change in local temperature. Any day you flip onto a news channel, you are likely to see at least one segment or statistic pointing towards climate change. And we are to blame. Our ceaseless desire for material possessions and financial gain is degrading our planet at an alarming rate.
You may be aware of a recent climate change protest that sparked unease. On April 6, Peter Kalmus, a NASA climate scientist, chained himself to the doors of the J.P Morgan Chase building in Los Angeles. J.P Morgan Chase has invested trillions into fossil fuels, which are one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Along with other colleagues, Kalmus was arrested for the peaceful protest. More alarming, however, was his plea to the world: “We’re going to lose everything. We’re not joking… If everyone could see what I see coming, society would switch into climate emergency mode and end fossil fuels in just a few years.”
My question is: now that we have heard yet another voice – a climate scientist, especially – begging for society to change its ways, will we actually follow through on saving this planet? Or will this issue be swept under the rug, yet again, for the sake of big corporations and their unappeased financial appetite. While efforts such as the Paris Agreement indicate worldwide attention to climate change, our ambitions are falling short. Last year, UN Climate Change stated that in order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, “nations must redouble their climate efforts.” Significant emission reductions need to be met before 2030.
I think the worst part about climate change is the fact that large companies are majorly to blame. 70% of human-induced emissions can be traced back to just 100 companies. This makes things dismal for the eco-conscious individual. One starts to see extreme climate change and disaster as inevitable. I have spoken with many people who have said they would be more sustainable if it would actually “do something.” While this way of thinking isn’t beneficial in any way, I understand completely where they are coming from. If these big corporations are the root of our global warming problem, how am I, a single being, able to combat that with my reusable straw and compost bin?
Falling victim to discouragement is easy amidst climate doomism. However, the earth is not doomed. It may appear that way, and we may be headed down that road, but there is still time to act and do our best, even as individuals, to save this planet. I don’t think people realize the power consumers have if we unite our efforts.
One of the most impactful things we can do as individuals is divest from fossil fuels. In this case, we are referring to taking away funds from the fossil fuel industry, or companies that are invested in it. While it is more impactful when committed to by organizations or businesses, it can also be done on a solitary level. It is crucial to remember, however, that “divestment hinges on widespread solidarity and a belief in a better future achieved through collective action.”
While collective action is more efficient at combatting the fossil fuel industry, other individual actions for sustainable living include: paying attention to where you source your food, investing in sustainable, durable products and clothing, or simply consuming less. Things like regenerative agriculture and second-hand shopping are great ways to invest in the planet and yourself.
However, even with options for personal sustainability, I still find myself hearing groans about the “useless” efforts of trying to be more eco-conscious. Apparently, the labor it takes to be environmentally-friendly is not worth it. I know that sustainable products are typically more expensive. I know that composting and recycling take more effort than simply throwing everything in the garbage. I know that my personal actions, on their own, do not add up significantly. But I also know that not taking action against fossil fuels and furthering the destruction of the Earth is worse than any so-called “useless” attempt to be more sustainable.
I am not one to place guilt on the consumer or individual for climate change primarily induced by these giant corporations and industries. However, I am saying that the least you can do is try.
How many times have you gone outside and were blessed by the incomparable beauty of nature? Sunlight filtering through the limbs of trees, the crash and lull of the ocean under a moonlit sky, the unsuspected sunset that draws you to stare upwards for minutes without realizing. Is the awe-inspiring power and grace of this planet not enough? Are the lives of countless species of animals and plants not worth the effort?
If we go too far, to the point of no return, when will be the day that we no longer get to appreciate the full expression of Earth? When will be the day that we realize we took it all for granted? I do not say these things to spread alarm or conjure shame. I simply want to remind everyone how precious this planet is. To me, to you, to everyone. Might I remind you that if this planet goes down, we do, too. I share a love for nature and the environment so strong that it pains me not to advocate the best I can. It pains me to see others disregard this planet and its gifts so readily. I don’t think we understand how privileged we are to still have the opportunity of enjoying the gifts that this planet grants us. We are getting to reap the last of its benefits as other countries are already facing the life-threatening repercussions of climate change.
This Earth Day, I want to spark something inside of you, whether that be a yearning to learn more about global warming, the desire to begin composting, or the attempt to buy your produce from the local farmers market. While the ball is in the court of the corporate world, we can still be a crowd that jeers and protests against foul play. Enough voices and enough action is simply that: enough. I want you to not only find ways in your life to incorporate sustainable living, but also hold gratitude for the gift of this planet. Go outside and feel the sunlight hit your skin, and then try to tell me that this Earth isn’t worth it.
Mo is an alumni of Seattle Central and is currently attending the University of Washington with aspirations to pursue a career in journalism and communications while also delving into anthropology. She aims to explore the world and reveal the stories it wishes to tell through her writing and photography/videography. When she’s not captivated by her journalistic pursuits, she loves to go on adventures, create, watch films, and surf.