Should we really wait for change to come from above?
We all have that friend that once said: “my actions are surely not going to change the world. We’re almost 8 billion people” or “I can’t make up my mind, this time I’m just not gonna vote, there’s millions of voters anyway”. And I get it. Even if tomorrow I were to turn vegan, environmental degradation would still be rampant and I would definitely not stop climate change. That is simply mathematics. Also, check out this link if you want to get a sense of how small we are.
I swear my intention was not to discourage you (I mean just let me for a few more lines). If we look at the data, about a third of total greenhouse gases emissions come from manufacturing. In fact, the manufacturing sector is the number one biggest emitter of Co2, being positioned even before crop production and transportation. For example, cement is made from coal, oil and other fossil fuels and also plastics come from a combination of crude oil, natural gas and coal. Plus, the vast majority of our clothes are produced using oil derivatives. Now think about how many times a day you come across something made of plastic or walk on a cemented road. Not to mention the quantity of synthetic clothes we own, because let’s face it, every girl in town has that Zara faux leather jacket.
So, going back to the initial question, if Transnational Corporations are the most responsible for GHGs emissions,
why should we individuals make sustainable choices? And how?
The most obvious answer is that we need to turn to renewable energy sources. Things like installing solar panels or using your bike instead of your car are thought to be the most influential choices one can make when it comes to fighting climate change. Changing eating habits might also be a good point: trying to reduce the quantity of meat in our meals and switch to plant-based solutions drastically reduces the Co2 emissions per capita. But, not all of us can actually afford to take these decisions. For example, we simply might not have the financial means to buy an electric car. Also, very often our cities are not structured in a way that makes us feel safe using the bike - which may lead to feeling forced to take the car even if we live in a small town. And, last, let’s not forget that it may be difficult for many of us to change our eating habits while we’re still living with our parents.
As all these are obstacles to our capacity to make a difference, we might feel overwhelmed and anxious. That’s why we often come to the conclusion that our actions don’t count. But, sometimes we have to let go of things out of our power and focus on simpler acts. For me, shopping local has been a great compromise. It has helped me feel less anxious about not doing enough against climate change and significantly more satisfied with the things I buy. In fact, turning to sustainable businesses for my occasional shopping has given me a sense of pride about the items I own - as they’re often unique and allow me to express my creativity - and at the same time a sense of relief for helping the environment. In turn, as our collective habits evolve, the power of the consumer becomes more and more evident as we see the market changing for the better, with many new businesses focusing on human and environmental well-being. Also, engaging in a discussion about these issues can be very meaningful because very often people are simply uninformed about the effects of our lifestyle on the environment.
The bottom line is that we as individuals can actually make a difference simply through developing our own awareness - which in turn can influence the consciousness of the people around us - and this is just as important as taking direct action. So, there are many little things we can personally do to change the status quo but, most importantly, we need to remember we have the capacity to influence others, which will surely lead to a more effective collective action in the future.
Illustrated by Giada Maestra
I leave you with two links if you wish to know more about this topic.
Here you find an art project by Olafur Eliasson connected to the global issue of ice melting. This work of art had the ultimate purpose of calling for individual action: https://icewatchlondon.com
This is an article by Bill Gates on how to transition to a zero-emission economy (pretty technical I would say, but I really recommend it): https://time.com/5930098/bill-gates-climate-change/