A trend that has been sweeping the internet in recent months is the idea that plastic straws are killing the environment, and if we stop using them, we stem our negative impact on global climate change.
People have taken to the internet with the hashtag #SavetheTurtles, posting pictures of themselves using metal straws in lieu of plastic ones. The irony of it all is that these metal straws are in plastic cups with plastic lids.
The idea of being environmentally conscious and taking initiative to quit using plastic straws is nice. However, the causes of climate change run much deeper than our use of plastic straws.
Plastic pollution is a huge issue that we need to resolve. There is no doubt that it contributes to climate change. Similarly, our recycling practices, especially in the U.S., could improve. It is not difficult to create a national recycling program that ensures the most plastic possible is being recycled.
I could go on about how the U.S.’s recycling program could be better, but my point is banning plastic straws seems to put a Band-Aid over the much larger, much more serious cause of climate change: industrial pollution.
Humans can minimize our carbon footprint until our faces turn blue, but at the end of the day, our small, everyday human activities aren’t the cause of the wide-scale global climate change that scientists are threatening. Big corporations that take oil and coal out of the earth without thinking about the repercussions of doing so are, but that doesn’t mean our hands are tied in this situation.
With the impending doom of irreversible climate change looming over us like a big, black cloud of industry-produced smoke, it can be understandable why individual consumers want to do something to help stem the catastrophic effects of global warming. By giving up meat, swearing off plastic straws or carpooling, we feel like we’re at least doing something to prevent large-scale climate catastrophe.
The truth is, we don’t have enough time for our efforts to have an effect on climate change.
We need to hold the corporations that are responsible for producing carbon emissions accountable. We need to elect politicians who will fight for legislation that will decrease the carbon emissions they produce, like a tax on carbon, which Exxon Mobil has already fought for.
So, what can you do? Start by researching what companies burn fossil fuels without a second thought about their effect on the environment. Make sure that the candidates you’re voting for in your local, state and federal elections are taking initiative to implement legislation that regulates carbon emissions. Boycott companies that dump carbon into the atmosphere without caring about the repercussions. You can do all of this, and you can still boycott plastic straws, eat less meat and care about the turtles. The little things matter, too.