On September 20, the Global Climate Strike organized a massive protest to promote climate change awareness in the streets of New York City. After the rally, youth protesters will most likely return home to Amazon Prime packages on their doorsteps, commute long distances to work or school the following week, and consume products that are the major causes to the dilemma we are trying to resolve. But looking around, there were no protests outside the storefronts of fast fashion companies such as H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. Neither were there any protests against Amazon, Exxon Mobil, or Chevron. Thus, we still direct the blame on our government and Donald Trump for protecting our own habits, because it is easier that way.
Let us take some time to reflect on ourselves together.
As the younger generation in America, we are bound to put limitations on the number of decisions we make on consumption. We have debts, loans, dues, and payments that significantly reduce our personal budgets. At the same time, we are constantly reminded of new trends, the latest iPhone model, or a new style of clothing posted on Pinterest. What used to be simply “wants” eventually turned into “needs” in order to be accepted into today’s society for survival.
Fast fashion companies sell not only large amounts of trendy clothes at extremely affordable prices, they also sell us a dream. We may not be able to afford Kanye’s outfits; however, we sure can afford alternatives that mirror the glamorous look, because it is a “sin” to be caught wearing the same clothes twice in Instagram photos. These companies no longer produce clothing based on demand, rather on the current fashion trends, to which it aims for Hail Marys’ to make profits.
When there are low seasons or months when clothes of these ridiculous designs are not being sold, it is usually dumped at landfills or burned in incinerators. The sad truth is that recycling and donating excess products cost money. These companies do not conduct business to save the world, they do business because we the consumers allow for this fast, throw-away culture.
Large companies thrive on low-cost production and high retail values for maximum profits. If everything we owned was not made in China, it will most likely be made in other developing countries; such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Mexico to name a few. These factories, again for the sake of profit and to meet our demands, push for non-stop production of goods, all while disregarding the waste it leaves, pollution it releases, and the overall livelihood of its workers. When we see pictures of mass deforestation projects on social media, know that is because we feel we “need” these things to survive in our upscale society.
Not only do we just these need things; we need them now. Less than a decade ago, Amazon sold books that arrived two weeks after it was ordered online. Today, it sells just about anything made in those same developing countries, but now with guaranteed delivery in two days or less. Meaning that the ugly Christmas sweater worn once and immediately throw away, will arrive before the holiday, or that the textbooks we last minute order, will on time for the new semester. A decade ago, delivery trucks left those warehouses with a full load. Now it leaves the warehouse every hour with just a few packages to fulfill our Prime membership guarantee.
Imagine the number of delivery trucks on the road at one time, to deliver the necessities of one person. Add on the number of other transportation trucks, daily commuters driving to work and to school, and regular people trying to get to places; we have congested traffic. This makes it much more dangerous on major highways, not to mention that slowing down or remaining idle consumes more fuel, only further increasing emission rates. Imagine the 1,800 gallons of water it takes to produce one pair of jeans in our closet. Imagine roughly 11 million paper plastic cups thrown away daily after we consume our Starbucks coffee. Almost every aspect of our lives in a developed nation contributes to climate change, and we should not blame only others without first looking at our own waste.
President Barack Obama, the leader of the fight on climate change, even discussed the difficulties of changing American norms. We live in a time where our own citizens have many problems at hand. Whether it is commuting far distances to save on living expenses or purchasing affordable necessities, the distant problem of climate change does not matter if people cannot survive in our changing society right now. Fighting climate change requires us to make personal sacrifices in our lives and allow time to help us gradually accept new and healthy habits. If we cannot make these changes voluntarily, then why are we asking our government to?
We must set aside our emotions, political biases, and motives, and focus that effort on self-reflection.
Instead of protesting against our government, we need to protest our own habits, which can be considered as much more dangerous than President Trump. While he may have made the decision to withdraw from the agreement to save our planet, we are the ones that continue to contribute to climate change through our own actions.
Let us not practice hypocrisy. If there is no Planet B, then it is up to us, each individual person, to take the first step. If we want to solve the problem, we can no longer be a part of the problem.