Opinion: No, big corporations are not the only ones to blame for the climate crisis

We have a responsibility to change the way we consume

Opinion: No, big corporations are not the only ones to blame for the climate crisis

As of late, it has become very common to blame the big corporations for the deadly reality of climate change. Needless to say, they do have an immeasurable influence on the way our future is looking. We all know we are not headed in a good direction. Yet, the question of who gives power to those corporations is not often brought to light . We seem to ignore the fact that we, the consumers, are the ones giving corporations power to destroy our future. What would happen if we all decided to really change the way we consume? We have the power to affect necessary change, but, in order to do so, we need to acknowledge that we are all part of the problem. 

Let’s face it, those who have power will not simply let it go; the big producers, the ones that are really negatively impacting the planet, continue to exist because they continue to generate profit. We constantly place the blame for climate change on them. We say that they are monsters and persistently call them out. However, we continue to ignore that we are the ones responsible for creating them and helping them stay in power. All industries within our capitalist society adapt to the way the market behaves; based on people’s consuming decisions, corporations will produce certain products. If we all change the way we consume, we will be pushing them to produce in the way we want them to. The notion of power residing in the people is completely true. The market depends on the decisions that we make as those decisions are the ones that bring profit to the corporations. 

Now, it is relevant to recognize that not all industries rely on a strong consumer influence. Therefore, it is our duty to be aware of the places where we play a role and can change that negative impact. The power that we have can be used to make more informed decisions when it comes to what we eat, what we wear, and the products that we use on a daily basis. Yet, many of the eco-friendly products are not very accessible to all people due to their high pricing, creating a limited availability. Which is why we, as a part of an educated community that has privileges, are the ones who play the biggest role. We are the ones that can change and can push for the production to change too. As part of the academic community, the student body and the University as whole fit into this responsibility. It is necessary to educate ourselves and others as well as to use the privileged status that we have to make the right decisions. 

Seen from a more general perspective , it can all be framed following the notion of the law of demand and supply. Take Chile for example: the country decided to incorporate the use of frontal labeling to make people aware of the foods that are bad for their health. Within the first 18 months, the consumption of those products labeled as risky reduced 25 percent. As a result, the industry began to change. Companies such as Nestle, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were pushed to change their products in order to meet the market demands for healthier products. The presence of information pushed people to alter their consumption patterns, resulting in the big industries having to adapt to these changes. What happens when we begin to apply this logic to all those products that harm the planet and society as a whole? 

The Chilean case poses an interesting framework to the impact that information has on consumer behavior. The information being forced into people’s daily lives had an impact on their decision-making. We are a generation that is constantly being exposed to a great amount of information; now the question is, why are we not using it? The more aware and informed we are about the products we consume, the more we can push to change the way the big industries produce. We need to stop blaming other agents for the decisions that we make. Knowing that we have the information at the tips of our fingers and deciding not to use it is the reason why we see no real progress . It seems to me that we are a generation that thrives in rational ignorance. 

We can push for these changes to take place. It is only necessary for all of us to begin doing the work and changing the way we consume. We constantly call for legislators to take action, but the more we wait, the more time passes by and the more time we lose. It is comfortable to blame others as it takes away the responsibility that we all have for creating this reality. By no means do I intend to justify the behavior of big corporations — I aim to show the reality and the role that we play in all of this. In the end, it is a matter that we all have to work as a team. Get uncomfortable, inform yourselves, and begin actually doing something about the situation. If - we keep on pointing fingers at others, then we do not create the necessary change. 

Isabela Linares Uscher is a junior in the School of International Service and an opinion columnist for The Eagle.

ilinares@theeagleonline.com 

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