The environmentalist movement gives me hope that other people are also working to fight climate change and conserve the earth for future generations to come. However, the movement and companies put pressure on individuals to fix the environmental problems that major corporations are often at fault for. This strategy by corporations puts the blame on individuals and diverts attention from their contribution to climate change they is bigger by a wide margain. Only 100 companies make up 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé are the top three causes of plastic pollution. Major corporations are responsible for a majority of deforestation. However, 54% of the 90 most significant tropical timber and pulp companies have not publicly committed to protecting biodiversity. Also, 44% have yet to publicly commit to zero-deforestation.
While it is important to continue to educate yourself and become more sustainable, it is also essential to put it into perspective. I have accepted that it is perfectly alright to be an imperfect environmentalist. I try my best to pay carbon offsets for shipping and flying. I bring my reusable water bottle and cup everywhere. I try to only buy clothes from sustainable companies or thrift stores. I pick up plastic and trash at the beach and parks. However, I sometimes forget my reusable things or buy a piece of clothing that was not sustainably made. I used to feel guilty about this (and sometimes still do). Now, I have directed the energy I would have used to feel guilty to join others in the fight against major corporations. This could consist of signing petitions for companies to stop dumping illegal waste, emailing companies to make the change to sustainable packaging, and voting for candidates that will go after major corporations and their contributions to climate change.
I believe that there is no “perfect environmentalist.”
On an individual level, I believe that there is no “perfect environmentalist.” People choose different paths to conserve the earth and become more sustainable. Some become vegan. Others decide not to have children. A few devote their lives to environmental research or education. It is important to remember that everyone is working on themselves to be a better environmentalist. They will make mistakes and not do everything right. Instead of being critical of ourselves and others, we need to focus that energy into calling out and fighting the biggest causes of climate change: major corporations.
Tessa is a senior Biology major from Redmond, WA. She is interested in how climate change and environmental issues affect minority and low-income communities.