The myth we keep telling ourselves

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How are we reacting to the recent UN climate change report? What seems to be our take on responsibility that we are all facing? Everyone has their own opinion on how to deal with the environmental crisis, although in some circles there still seems to be a debate whether global warming is even “real” - for obvious reasons we will not be discussing that. But once our eyes are open to alarming reports like the recent one from the UN - are we brave enough to admit the collective responsibility?

As you might have heard in the last weeks, in case you were not aware before, climate change is a big deal. UN have just released a report which describes a real and urgent threat for us all in the event of average global temperature rising by merely 1.5*C. According to dozens of world’s renowned scientists, if we warm the planet by just this much, the changes in our ecosystems will be irreversible.

In the wake of the document’s arrival, we couldn’t help but read a couple of comments among the avalanche of response that appeared all around. Thankfully, a lot of people are noticing the danger of our actions as the inhabitants of the planet and the responsibility we all bear in the fight against the irreversibility of global warming. After all, everyone of us is a consumer of services, food, technology - and all of it is produced using our planet’s resources, which are - surprise surprise - limited. We are happy not to be lonely advocates for mindfulness and awareness of where we all are standing as active but unapologetic benefactors of Earth’s resources. 

However, very sadly, we discovered an ever-present opinion that persists even if being entirely wrong and mis-guided. It is caused by the illusion that we don’t hold responsibility for the current status quo, and we have no immediate influence on it. It is probably the main cause of things improving extremely slow and, consequently, a threat that we won’t change fast enough. And it goes like this:

“Why should we as consumers feel responsible for something that only around 100 giant companies are responsible for?”

This is a point that is so ignorant at its very core, that it is hard to leave it without a comment. Loads of people still feel like it’s okay to avoid responsibility and have no problem whatsoever with supporting the easiest and most convenient mainstream choices (which are usually not the best) when it comes to consumption.

Examples?

“By licensing Starbuck’s brand to Maxim’s Caterers Limited who openly sell shark’s fin on their menus, Starbucks has partnered with the shark fin trade itself,” says Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd Global. Shark fin soup is considered a traditional meal in Hong Kong and millions of people consume it every year down here - hence, imagine the scale. In case you need to be informed how shark fins are harvested - masses of sharks are hunted, having their fins amputated and “thoughtfully released” into oceans - either for a sure death or painful and miserable life. These practices destroy ecosystems and, more importantly, our very sense of humanity. Would you say, you simple consumer who “has nothing to say”, that your coffee in Starbucks is not supporting this, when it clearly is? Shouldn’t you and millions of Starbucks consumers alike logically be responsible for making Starbuck’s cater to you?

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When you support someone on the top of the chain, you also support who they partner with. It’s not about not consuming - it’s about knowing where your money goes. Are you sure your favourite chocolate brand doesn’t benefit from child slavery and trafficking? Are you sure your electronics producer doesn’t manufacture in Chinese factory with no emissions regulations and control? Are you sure your new trousers are not made in Southeast Asia in one of the most river-polluting working sites?

Fast fashion over local production, low price over human rights, fast food over plant-based balanced diet, giant companies with shady connections and notorious violations on all fields over small producers with transparent value chains and production. It is easy to stay in the vicious circle of negligence and illusion if its easy enough. The alternative pieces of information are all there for us to see, yet, collectively, we still seem not to be willing to learn. 

Here are the questions which all critically-thinking people ask themselves right now: If there are only around 100 companies deemed responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, who is choosing these companies by their consumption choices? Who is constantly voting for them with their wallet? If meat industry alone is producing nearly half of all greenhouse gases worldwide, and it’s serving nothing else but our staggering meat intake, wouldn’t it make sense to just limit our meat consumption, even a little bit? 

Small everyday decisions are the building blocks to the dome that is our status quo. The argument of collective responsibility is probably the most resounding in the “let’s try to save the planet” debate. Systemic approach and multidimensional changes are crucial to stopping the damage that has already been done, and possibly, reversing it. It will not do to protest meat eaters, organise fight-searching activists into battle groups, spread fear and doomsday. We need to stop arguing about who is right about all of it, because, truth is, probably no one ever is and everyone is too. What about just trying to gather as much objective information as we possibly can and act on it? Latest UN report and its aftermath is probably a good place to start educating ourselves about our actions and their results.

There is no single answer to the question of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5°C and adapt to the consequences. Feasibility is considered in this report as the capacity of a system as a whole to achieve a specific outcome. 

We should work all together, as a system. The answer does not lay in a couple of people going vegan, zero-waste and re-evaluating their whole consumption and transportation habits. We all need to take certain steps, otherwise our children will need to look for another planet to live on. 

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