FACEOFF: Consumers provoke change, individuals must take responsibility


Sierra Rozen and Sammy Jo Cienfuegos/Hilltop Views

The amount of fires in the Amazon has gone up 85% since last year according to NASA. The Amazon Rainforest provides the world with 25% of its oxygen so these fires should be causing global concern.

The Amazon Rainforest has been burning for months. There are a variety of reasons as to why this might be happening, but the biggest one involves what you might be eating for lunch later today. Farmers burn large parts of the Amazon and use the land for animal agriculture. This incredibly unsustainable practice is being supported by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil is the world’s top exporter of beef, so there’s no question as to why Bolsonaro is letting this all happen.An overarching argument that branched from the news about the Amazon is one revolving the importance of individual action.

Many Twitter users argue that individual changes, such as going vegan and zero waste, are a waste of time. They say that small changes won’t add up to anything significant. But if that was the case, what would be the point of voting? For example, Beto O Rourke lost this year’s Senate race by 2.6 percent. If a couple hundred more families had attended the polls, we would’ve had a different Senator. Another thing to consider is streaming music. How do you think singers get to the top of the charts? It’s all of the individual listeners. Individual action is what fuels these big accomplishments, so why wouldn’t it fuel big changes?

While there’s nothing we can really do to stop the fires, we can still support the people affected by donating to the World Wildlife Foundation’s Emergency Fund for Amazon Fires. All donations go directly to those providing fire response and Amazon recovery. 

In this particular case, it can be difficult to believe that our individual choices have any impact at all, but there are statistics that show us otherwise. A study published in the journal Science states that 60% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture. As lead author Joseph Poore explains, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use.” I wouldn’t say that 60% is a small number by any means, so why do people keep on avoiding their part in the chaos?

It’s easy to say that corporations are at fault for two reasons, one being those corporations are to blame, but secondly, people don’t like being accountable. 

Yes, big corporations generate the most waste. Yes, big corporations only care about generating wealth. Yes, big corporations are evil. But who drives these corporations? Who do they listen and respond to? Consumers. Consumers drive production and as long as consumers continue supporting unsustainable ways of living, large corporations aren’t going to change any of their policies. 

Expecting consumers to be educated about their choices can be a slippery slope, but if consumers don’t start at least trying to make some changes, there will be no slope to slide on. 

It is frustrating that no matter how many changes we implement into our daily lives, powerful people can still start fires for personal gain. But if a tree falls in the middle of a forest but no one is around to see it, does it make a sound? It does. Every small change you implement makes a sound. And if enough people make these necessary changes, the sound will be overwhelming and lead these big corporations to make some much-needed changes.