The environmental movement should be more accessible

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier deputy news editor

Environmentalism is becoming increasingly more accessible. Whether that accessibility comes from the easily attainable knowledge spread through the internet or improvements in technology that make metal straws and reusable grocery bags commonplace, it’s becoming easier to be more ecologically friendly.

That being said, just because more people can fit into this standard mold we consider necessary for achieving individual ecological responsibility, doesn’t mean it’s equitable. While contemporary green activism has the best intentions, it can often fail to consider classist, racist and ableist constructs and institutions endemic in our society.

Generally speaking, we can ascribe several common attributes that are seen as fundamental to modern environmentalism. This includes, for example, little to zero waste, upcycling, vegetarianism or veganism, and completely electric or low emission appliances and technology. While all of these ideals are obviously positive and beneficial, they are ideals. They are not easily attainable. People with severe allergies might rely on purchasing food sealed in plastic to avoid contamination. Others who need to work multiple jobs to support their families might not have time to bike or walk to work, and instead use a car to ensure they can make it on time.

Being able to fully participate in the environmental movement is usually a sign of privilege. There are people who selflessly devote their entire lives to environmental protection, without regards to their own economic or social wellbeing. However, the ability to live comfortably while simultaneously being completely “green” insinuates that you have the time, money and social ability to do so.

The stakes of our fight against climate change and environmental degradation are high. We will all die if we do not radically change the way that humans interact with the Earth. So we set our expectations for ourselves high. And we should hold ourselves to a high level of ecological responsibility. But we also cannot expect people to be as “green” as we are, or to approach environmentalism in the same way.

A lot of times, we can be fairly judgmental. And to some extent this is necessary, but shaming people into environmental friendliness isn’t effective. Aside from disregarding social restrictions, aggressive guilt-tripping pushes people away from the movement.

Ultimately, the planet’s livelihood isn’t majorly affected by whether or not you use a plastic straw. The majority of environmental destruction derives from manipulative and abusive practices of major corporations, whose shareholders stand to gain from deforestation or pollution. By focusing our shame on individuals, we alleviate the responsibility from those committing actual environmental atrocities.

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