Why the “Climate Emergency” Trope is Starting to Feel Worn Out

todayNovember 6, 2019 31

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By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

You’ve heard all the trigger words and phrases: “climate change,” “global warming,” “12 years to act.” We’re constantly bombarded with this information on social media, told that our human actions on the planet are irreversible and have to constantly adjust to navigating a social and political atmosphere of climate change deniers. 

When I say the climate emergency feels “worn out,” I mean that the way we’re given this information feels totally unproductive and unhelpful. What’s never talked about is that the truth is the bulk of climate change falls on the backs of big corporations and capitalism. 

Sure, it’s true that we need to do our part, but this narrative is getting a little old. We’re coming up on a generation of young adults who are seemingly made to feel firsthand guilt for these environmental problems. While some of us certainly don’t help (see: partygoers trashing South Padre Island over spring break) this problem ultimately precedes us and rests largely on others. 

I recently saw a video on Twitter from Greenpeace— a reputable and important environmental organization— that went a little viral, but not for the right reasons. It featured actor Woody Harrelson and singer Billie Eilish in a one minute video explaining, well, the complete obvious. Many criticisms came from people feeling that they were just regurgitating facts we already know (“we are in a climate emergency,” “we cannot let this happen on our watch,” “time is running out”). 

Many felt that it was a little ironic for two people with a combined net worth of $71 million who live lifestyles with private jets and sweatshop-made designer outfits tell the internet that saving the planet is going to come in the form of the middle class going vegan, reducing plastic consumption and following Instagram accounts. 

Bringing about awareness is one thing; seeing support and activism from people with large platforms is another; but at the end of the day, the useless word vomit and exhausted statements full of empty language almost do more harm than good. It perpetuates a vicious cycle of words without action, and the cynicism can be blinding and deafening. 

While there is so much out of our control, there is still so much in our control, too. Being cognisant of all the little ways you can help is (despite what it seems I’ve suggested so far) incredibly important. There’s a world of information out there, but one of the most important ways you can truly make a difference is to go out and get loud in your communities— whether that’s on social media, at your school, in your city or just within your social groups. 

A cardboard sign with the phrase “Eco not ego” painted on it
Protests are a great way to unionize on a large, loud scale. There are tons of resources available online to find one near you. Image retrieved via Creative Commons.

Little acts can build into big movements. Pressure your favorite brand or celebrity to do better. Educate yourself and those around you so that we can actively vote for leaders who have the planet in mind with their policies— they’re the ones who have the platform to enact life-saving legislature, and have a real influence over the corporate entities that inflict the most damage to our environment.

So, relax: the only thing your 30 minute shower is really going to do is run up your water bill, not cause impending earthly doom.

Featured image retrieved via Creative Commons.

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