environment issues

“Environmental Initiatives: Things Are Not as They Seem” – Lauren

 

Entanglement between environmental agencies and large-scale corporations is rampant and largely goes unnoticed.  In her book, “This Changes Everything,” Naomi Klein delves into the murky waters (probably due to pollution) where the natural environment and the corporate environment overlap.  It is no longer a secret that large corporations, especially those in the food and fossil fuel industries, control our government. After all, a government based on capitalism will capitalize where the needs of its consumers are: the food that feeds humans and the fossil fuels that feed essentially everything else.  Laissez faire policies allowed corporations to grow exponentially until they had the power to also control our government.  Now, corporations seek to buy out environmental agencies, and the worst part is that they are succeeding.

One example of this is how a well known environmental agency, The Nature Conservancy, allowed oil companies to drill on their conservation (193).  If a company that supposedly stands for environmental conservation can be bought out at a certain price tag, what does this say about the rest of society?  Most people look to these agencies for leadership and guidance, to solve the climate crisis with their ecologically minded policies.  All trust is lost when an organization exploits what it claims to protect in return for money from the corporations do the most damage to our planet.

captionThis, unfortunately, is not a rare occurrence; other agencies like the Conservation Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International have accepted money from fossil fuel companies companies like Shell, BP, Exxon, American Electric Power, and other destructive corporations like Walmart, Monsanto, Toyota, and McDonald’s (196).  It is hard to believe that these agencies are fighting to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius when they are accepting money from corporations that will do anything to keep from being regulated.  This money is incentive to publish false articles about climate change, allow for drilling, and falsify records.

Corruption also occurs in the conferences and think tanks that produce environmental platforms for our society and government.  Organizations like the Heartland Institute hold climate change conferences that are primarily funded by fossil fuel companies and “right-wing causes that cannot be fully traced” (44).  The scientists that present at Heartland have received the majority of their funding from fossil fuel companies in the past and the journalists asked to publicize the conference have also received money from the same sources (45).

The entanglement and corruption continues when CEOs claim to act in an environmentally mindful way but still push the free market to its edge by further developing a destructive company.  This is the case for Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines.  In 2006, Branson pledged $3 billion of profits over the next decade toward the development of biofuels, presumably so that he could continue to earn money without having his environmental friendly persona tainted with hypocrisy, seeing as the airline industry has one of dirtiest carbon footprints (231).  Branson never met his $3 billion pledge, nor did he invest in the development of biofuels; yet he was able to double the size of his airline fleet, thus doubling his carbon emissions.  That is the issue with large corporations: the public only sees their proclaimed righteousness while under the surface, their tactics are just as dirty as the fuel they mine and use.

This duplicity seems to be what our country is built upon in recent years.  Food products with GMO’s can be labeled as “natural”; conservancies can drill for oil; whole countries can claim to be “for the people,” when in reality, all they are for is free trade and money.  This is too large and too confounded a task to change by simply recycling and driving a Prius.

In order to overcome the challenges we face, we need to restructure our government and economy to favor small, local business, rather than Big Business.  We need “live within ecological limits,” which means living locally (91).  How can you live sustainably when most the products you purchase come from a place you have never been and of which you do not know the ecological limits?   Scaling things back to the local level will allow people to have greater awareness of where their goods are coming from, the energy and time spent in making them, and how they are disposed.  This awareness may encourage people to consume less, which is a huge factor in staying under a two degree Celsius temperature increase.  Scaling economies back to the local level will likely disrupt the corporate schema and provide communities with more local jobs, and more importantly, jobs with safe conditions and fair wages.  This will decrease social disparities and make the entire economy more equitable.  But in order to do this, there will have to be sacrifice.

mosantoLarge corporations will have to let go of destructive fair trade policies and the only way to do this is through regulation.  Regulation will take the power out of the hands of the few and put back into the hands of the many.  Though Big Business will take the hardest blow, even wealthy middle class consumers will probably feel some of the impacts of regulation.  However, a more equitable economy is the only sustainable option we have as a planet in order to survive comfortably on economic, social, and environmental fronts.

In order to make this “Great Transition” we need large-scale policy changes that force carbon to stay in the ground and even bigger investments in renewable energy (89).  Small individual changes will have to be made for a full economic transition to be successful (91).  By making changes in our consumptions habits, we can directly affect corporations.  Without a hit to their profits, corporations will not change.  The middle class, currently living comfortably, needs to awaken from the daze of the screens that distract us from corporate corruption before it is too late to live comfortably at all.  We cannot wait for a cataclysmic event to force us into third world status and then try to change things. We must act now before it is too late.

Works Cited

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Print.  

Article by Lauren Wheeler

 

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12 thoughts on ““Environmental Initiatives: Things Are Not as They Seem” – Lauren”

  1. I find it an eye opening point when describing that environmental agencies normally go unnoticed. Foods can be labeled as “natural” and can make consumers believe it is good for you. But in reality our government is concerned with profit rather than benefiting our society. In a way I find it selfish since they seem to be killing off our society slowly with their destructive policies.

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  2. The motivation and greed the human race has for society is becoming sickening. In addition to giving up quality time with our loved ones for technology, now we are also giving up our morals, and deteriorating our environment- the future home for our children and grandchildren, for more money and more profit. The worst part is that the government and these large corporations hide the negative effects their actions are having to the general public because they know that profits wold drastically decrease if they did so. I’m starting to realize why governments and large corporations are labeled as ‘selfish’. Because, they’re willing to build a more profitable future for themselves at the expense of everyone else.

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  3. I feel as though environmental initiative has been put on the back burner for too long. Americans and congress need to advocate for stronger regulations for the use and exploitation of land, depletion of natural resources and the unethical use of chemical modification being utilized by the agriculture industry. Tobacco companies, and their role in big business, have played the role that agricultural industry and fossil fuel industries are playing now. Tobacco companies failed to expose the harmful effects of cigarettes because the capital was too great and the industry benefitted so much big business. Eventually, legislation was enacted by congress to notify the people of the harmful effects of the product and the cost to their health. This was a cost to the tobacco industry and big business in terms of capital but human right violations were somewhat alleviated. The agriculture industry functions the same way, only congress has yet to place stricter legislation on the harmful effects of this industry, whether that be unknown harms on human bodies or the depletion of resources such as water. Its time for our government and people to step in. The cost to human health and happiness is too large, whether it be from a direct health impact viewpoint or a resource depletion viewpoint. The overall health of humans living in our country is being compromised by a lack of action that is driven by the protection of capital.

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  4. As unfortunate as it is to say (and as this article itself points out), this is far from a “human” issue. A sustainable human race is not up to the average consumer to ensure or destroy by their actions alone. To solve a corporate and political problem, i.e. corruption, which is a hilariously imposing obstacle, action needs to be taken in the corporate and political sphere. While personal sustainability is awesome and absolutely what everyone should be doing, to a certain extent the only way an issue like political and corporate corruption is reduced and/or eradicated is to hold those responsible accountable directly. This starts with participating in the political process, and educating oneself about what can be done, even at a local level.

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  5. I find it interesting how sneaky these corporations can be, by telling us consumers that they are changing, and we believe them. And yet they fail to change, but are still making millions of dollars. I agree that we Americans need to be the change that the world needs to see, now not in the future when everything is already gone.

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  6. I think it’s sad that agencies have that much money and power, especially in our government. We are given all these agencies and resources with tons of information, but how are we supposed to know what we are seeing or reading is true or not? How do we know who’s getting paid to say certain things? I guess the answer to that is that people need to stop being lazy and do their research. I also think the solutions talked about in the article are a good start. I know I already try to support my home towns local businesses before I turn to a corporation or chain. This is just the first step for me though. I will continue to research and see who I really can trust and who I want to support.

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  7. It is truly tragic how corrupted government is today. The big voices are simply too loud to overpower it seems. Money and influence gives you power in the U.S. government and it is being used in painfully selfish ways by the most abusive like Monsanto. How can we make real change if the issues that matter are gridlocked by corporate money?

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  8. I relate to the first part of the article about the conservation companies being bought out because I live in South Jersey where there used to be a lot of farm lands and forests but over the past 6 to 10 years, they are all quickly disappearing. Right behind my house used to be a huge protected forest but now over half of it is gone. The worst part about it is the company who bought out the land did so, started clearing the forest, and then either lost interest or funds because the land is back up for sale. Another huge forest area on the other side of town was completely cleared out and a Home Depot, Walmart, Chick fil A, and a Best Buy were supposed to be put there and then somehow after the forest was cleared, “the contract fell through” so now there is an empty field that used to be acres and acres of farm land.

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  9. While reading this article I made note that there were many similarities between this text and points mentioned in the documentary Cowspiricy. This article specifically went more in depth on agencies having a price tag and the fact that they are willing to not do there job for a sum of money. I am in awe that corruption has forced its way into these groups. As a nation we should not settle for the standards changing. Why are we lowering them to fit large corporations and sacrificing not only our health but also the health of our planet. I do not think a few CEO’s keeping large amounts of money in the bank is worth the cost of losing our incredible environment.

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  10. I think putting blame on our capitalist government and society for the corruption between big business and government is misplaced. People fail to realize that these are multi-national corporations that really don’t have borders, so if you don’t accept money from them then someone will. Often politicians are forced to accept campaign contributions form Monsanto and others in order to win elections.

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    1. There are indeed multi-national corporations that don’t have borders, but who do you think buys the majority or their products, supplying the majority of their profits. We do. If we come together and accept this and don’t buy their stuff they will want to change in order to keep us as customers. There is actually little relation between the amount of money spent on a campaign and the success of a candidate. Their success has more to do with their charisma and popularity than it does with money. On the flip side money from corporations can be a huge target for criticism and hopefully make the public realize that they will do what the corporations that gave them money want, and not what the people want.

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  11. We currently have a separation of church and state (or at least supposedly) and after reading this article I now believe that we need an explicit separation of business and state. Money from businesses is rampant in politics and the media, and this is a big problem because if our government is being bought out then they won’t put in place necessary restrictions and the media won’t report on the true extent of the corruption caused by money from the big businesses, or when they fail to live up to their promises.

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