Climate change is a real problem.
Global temperatures are on the rise; a third of the world’s food supply is wasted every year; systemic issues of overconsumption and extraction impact the most vulnerable populations; and a small number of companies are responsible for nearly all of it.
And the impact of these problems are just as vast and intimidating.
Communities around the world grapple with extreme weather disasters, decreasing biodiversity, deforestation, ocean acidification, and human health threats we’ve never encountered before.
While the urgency of climate change should not be underestimated, neither should our ability to make a difference.
Here are a handful of ways each and every one of us can bring the climate crisis to a halt and create a future that is prosperous for both the planet and its people:
Just a few little, tiny things that you can do to protect the environment
Try really hard not to spill 1.2 million tons of oil in the ocean each year.
While it’s hard to narrow down exactly how much oil is spilled into the ocean each year as a result of corporate practices, we do know it’s not just because of barrels being dumped into the sea — but the runoff of fossil fields from other land-based infrastructure.
According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 1.2 million metric tons of oil is transferred from land to sea each year — and is larger than any other oil from other sources.
Things like petroleum-based fertilizer chemicals, waste from petroleum products, and other compounds are transported by water in drainage systems, streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater until it finds its way into the sea and harms marine life irreparably.
While oil spills and offshore reservoirs also contribute to ocean pollution, our reliance on fossil fuels on land is a major player in this crisis — so yeah, if you’re a fossil fuel company, maybe just cool it on the oil runoff.
Don’t destroy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unsold clothing.
The increasing speed of cheap, fast fashion has a number of devastating impacts on the environment; from abysmal carbon emissions, to deeply unethical working conditions across the board.
But even major brands who are advertised as luxury — or have supposedly eco-friendly initiatives — are a huge part of the problem.
For example, Burberry admitted to destroying $36.8 million worth of its own unsold merchandise in 2018, calling it a strategy to “preserve its reputation of exclusivity.”
This is hardly the only case, as brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Eddie Bauer, Victoria’s Secret, and more, have histories of destroying unsold merchandise.
While there are a number of methods these companies use to get rid of this clothing, the most popular is shredding or incinerating, according to Timo Rissanen, an associate dean at Parsons School of Design and a professor of fashion design and sustainability at the school’s Tishman Environment and Design Center.
“Quantitatively, there’s more stuff than there ever has been before. Fashion cycles have also gotten shorter because of the internet and fast fashion, so there’s a push to constantly put new merchandise out on the market,” Rissanen said in an interview with Vox. “So when you combine these two, we are now literally at a place where we no longer have anywhere for this stuff to go other than up a chimney.”
A great way to shrink that carbon footprint and reduce waste would be to completely overhaul your fashion company’s approach to merchandising and waste — and, you know, maybe don’t literally burn items that never needed to be made in the first place.
Don’t accept $124.4 million in bribes from the oil lobby.
The oil and gas industry spent about $124.4 million lobbying the U.S. federal government last year, according to OpenSecrets, an organization that follows money in politics.
But what exactly does that mean?
When lawmakers take money from oil and gas companies — like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, or Occidental Petroleum — it incentivizes them to consider possible legislation through the lens of what would best serve those companies — not the planet or their constituents.
This kind of insidious lobbying has led to the approval of pipeline drilling on sacred tribal lands, the preservation of oil and gas subsidies, and puts an enormous roadblock in the way of passing any positive climate legislation.
In fact, campaign finance data analyzed by Public Citizen indicates that the 29 Congress members who denounced the Biden administration’s pause on oil and gas leasing received a combined $13.4 million over their careers from the oil and gas lobby. When corporate money is so inextricably linked to the actions of our elected officials, democracy is threatened — and so is the future of everyone on this planet.
The good news? There are elected officials who refuse to accept contributions from the fossil fuel industry! 54 members of Congress have signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.
Turns out it’s really not that hard to not accept millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry.
Don’t fire 29% of your workforce and then expose an entire town to hazardous chemicals.
Just recently, the people of East Palestine, Ohio experienced the unimaginable: a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals went off the tracks and leaked contaminants into the town’s air and water.
While it still is not completely clear what caused the train’s derailment, we know that the rail industry has been notorious for aggressive cost-cutting, workforce shrinkage, and lack of regulations in recent years.
Rail workers — as well as government officials and other industry experts — have warned about these kinds of disasters, which could increase in the wake of rail companies slashing worker numbers.
Over the last six years, train companies cut 45,000 employees — 29% of their workforce — and now rely on bigger trains with the potential for more equipment failure.
Don’t worry, though — these rail companies continue to turn record profits.
“In my view, all of this has directly contributed to where we are today — rail users experiencing serious deterioration in rail service because, on too many parts of their networks, the railroads simply do not have a sufficient number of employees,” Martin Oberman, chair of the Surface Transportation Board said in 2022.
It’s the perfect case study in intersectional environmentalism: You can never separate the intertwining relationship between people and the planet.
A good way to prevent future, hazardous train derailments? Listen to the people who work on the railroads every day, and consider their lives and livelihoods above outlandish, Kendall-Roy-from-Succession-level profit.
Once you learn that your fossil fuel company is making the planet hotter, do your best not to lie about that information for 40 years.
Recent research and investigation has shown that one of the world’s largest oil companies, ExxonMobil, has been aware of its impact on global warming since the 1970s.
Private research done by ExxonMobil predicted that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet, but the corporation denied the findings publicly. New investigations into internal documents show the company was privy to the issue 11 years before it became a public issue.
“Our analysis allows us for the first time to actually put a number on what Exxon knew, which is that the burning of their fossil fuel products was going to heat the planet by about 0.2C of warming every decade,” the investigation’s co-author, Geoffrey Supran, an associate professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Miami, told the Guardian.
And history shows how ExxonMobil worked diligently to confuse the public about climate change; even going so far as to create the Global Climate Coalition, a group whose work was dedicated to questioning the scientific bases for concern about climate change.
Additionally, ExxonMobil worked to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate (the Kyoto Protocol) in 1998, which would have controlled greenhouse gasses.
This story of deception is perhaps the most damning evidence of corporate interests overtaking the concern for the future of our planet. By hiding this information, and continuing to pedal disinformation, ExxonMobil has done unimaginable damage to the Earth.
Not that they can really redeem themselves, but if the goofballs at ExxonMobil want to do their part for the planet, a good place to start could be not lying about climate change for longer than I’ve been alive.
Stop putting petty partisan interests above the future of the entire planet.
While we already know that the oil lobby is a big factor in the legislative realm of climate action, partisan divides also play a role in government inaction.
When the Inflation Reduction Act was passed last fall — which includes the most comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history — not a single Republican voted for the bill.
“The number drives home an unmistakable reality: Even after years of effort from environmentalists, climate change remains a starkly partisan issue in America,” Robinson Meyer reports in the Atlantic.
Even Republicans, like Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, who have both been more vocal about climate change, voted against the bill, signaling an ongoing partisan divide where climate action is relegated to a “liberal talking point” and not something that gravely affects us all.
Of course, this bill was not only a piece of climate action legislation, and there are certainly small wins in various legislative bodies around the country — but always remember that our elected officials are meant to represent their constituents, and blocking climate action isn’t exactly the best way to do that.
So, if you can, try not to be a roadblock in solving one of the most intimidating global crises humanity has literally ever faced. (If you’re a member of Congress reading this right now, this is not a joke.)
We are big believers in taking individual action and mobilizing our communities to be better stewards of the planet, but the biggest burden should fall on corporations, governments, and elected officials.
A 2017 report from the CDP found that just 100 fossil fuel companies are responsible for producing 71% of all global greenhouse gasses emitted since 1988 — so consider that a sign that it might be time for these institutions to invest in repairing what they’ve damaged.
The most impactful thing we can all do is work towards creating systemic, positive environmental change. Whether it’s boycotting corporations that don’t align with your values, calling your representatives and urging them to support actionable bills that make a real difference, or engaging in personal activism to spread awareness about climate change — we all have a role in this story.
It shouldn’t be one or the other; that either corporations take responsibility, or we continue to work our tushies off to make smart, ethical choices for the planet. We need both efforts working together to create a more just, climate-forward future.
Your personal responsibility for the planet and the people on this planet matters, and any work you’re doing on your own sustainability journey does make a difference — but it sure would be nice if the giant corporations who run the global economy felt the same way.
Happy April Fool’s Day from Good Good Good! May this tongue-in-cheek article inspire real change.