In recent times, few issues have been as widely discussed and as important as sustainability and how it connects to climate change and our environment. Many people today take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their damage to the environment through recycling and non-wasteful practices. This is common for many who are aware of the catastrophes we are sure to inherit if we don’t minimize our impact on the earth’s natural systems.
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve seen a big push in marketing and media urging for the individual to stand up and make a difference. Reduce, reuse, recycle is an instantly recognizable mantra for many people, especially younger generations. Despite this push, the average person is not responsible or able to make a big enough change in their overall carbon output. Instead, what needs to be the center of focus is the fossil fuel sector, agriculture and industry which combined make up three-fourths of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Though the goals of individual sustainability are well-intentioned, they can sometimes be used to help shift the blame from the real perpetrators. An individual’s carbon footprint makes up a pretty insignificant portion of their country’s greenhouse emissions. A more significant focus needs to be on individuals calling out large corporations, their governments and the fossil fuel industry. We need to pressure these entities to step up and make the changes necessary to avoid irreversible damage to our climate and futures.
Don’t get me wrong: having a personal interest in your environmental impact is enormous. There’s no doubt it can make you feel happier and more fulfilled in your life, in addition to helping your community and local ecosystems become cleaner and healthier. The fantastic work and many of the great people you can meet is why I participate in Stream and Street cleaning operations in Bryan-College Station hosted by organizations like Texas A&M’s OneLove. Taking the time to learn about sustainability is essential to being able to address the issue. However, we need to simultaneously focus our energy on the most effective way to combat it.
Without some substantial change in how our government and industries operate, we are on track to an almost 11-degree temperature rise. We are witnessing the fastest decline in sea ice in over 1,500 years. We can already see the impacts of this with the global sea level being 2.6 inches higher than the 1993 average. By 2050, we could even see as much as three feet of global sea-level rise. The resulting floodwaters would be disastrous for many coastal cities. It would lead to the displacement of millions. And just for good measure, we’re also at the beginning of our worst drought in the Southwest in 1,200 years.
The frequency of ecological disasters is only going to increase due to climate change. This leaves everybody to hold the bag for the mistakes of our leaders and some of the world’s wealthiest individuals. When the time comes, they’ll be the ones best shielded from these consequences. At the same time, we’ll take the brunt of the impact.
The only way for us to fight this is to speak out and support those who are willing to take the measures necessary to reduce the damage caused by climate change. Elect candidates who support the Green New Deal, which seeks to transition the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, in local, state and federal elections. Call or email your representatives who don’t support these kinds of policies and make it clear how important this issue is. Only buy products manufactured from sustainable sources. It is vital to have the awareness and motivation to speak out right now because day by day, our chances slip further and further away.