Climate change is an ever-present threat to humans, animals, and ecosystems around the world. A new study confirmed suspicions that human-caused climate change made the 2019-2020 southeast Australian fires worse and that is just one natural disaster that’s negatively affected by climate change. Ice in the Arctic is melting and causing a change in a major ocean current called the Beaufort Gyre, which could alter the Atlantic Ocean currents and in the climate of Western Europe. With tropical forests losing their ability to absorb carbon, the time to act is now.

Plant Native Trees and Plants (And Stop Cutting Down Trees!)

Now that spring is on its way, this is a great time to plant trees, plants, and gardens! With growing urban areas and the destruction of ecosystems, trees and plants are having a tough time. Trees and plants play a big role in ecosystems and climate change. For example, trees play a large part in the absorption of carbon while many plants are vital for the survival of pollinators and food production.

However, it’s not enough to just plant more trees to offset our carbon consumption. We also have to actively change our habits, systems, and infrastructures to build a more carbon-neutral environment. This can be anything from buying fewer things (including clothes), using and throwing out less plastic, or using fewer fossil fuels.

Consume Less and Buy Local

It may seem paradoxical but buying essential items like groceries in bulk can actually decrease the amount of packaging and thus, decrease the amount of material produced for certain items. So for items that your family/house uses frequently, buying in bulk can, in part, reduce the packaging materials and thus, partially reduce carbon emissions.

And if you’re able, consider shopping from local farms/stores to decrease the carbon emissions used to get your food to you. Local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and farmer’s markets can both provide great local produce for part of the year! There are plenty of benefits to supporting local businesses, from improving your own health to supporting your community and local economy to decreasing carbon emissions.

However, buying local, organic food or things in bulk can be cost-prohibitive. While it may be cheaper and better for the environment, buying in bulk will increase the amount you need to pay upfront, something that not everyone can afford to do. Additionally, there are a number of reasons why organic food is more expensive. Wealth and income inequality make it more difficult for poor and low-income folks to do things like buy bulk or organic food.

Call on or Boycott Companies

Just 100 companies are said to be responsible for 70% of the carbon emissions. In addition to less individual consumption (and thus, less money in the pockets of these companies), we can also call for them to invest in clean energy (or even, hopefully, put them out of business). Exxon Mobile, for example, knew about climate change almost 45 years ago and spent decades/countless resources fighting scientific studies and spreading misinformation for their own benefit. The company even helped create the Global Climate Coalition, which had a part in preventing the US from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Companies like Exxon Mobile have an enormous impact on greenhouse emissions and on public perception of science.

Call for an End of Billionaires and Multi-Millionaires

In June of 2019, former NYC Mayor and noted billionaire Micheal Bloomberg pledged $500 million to help the US move to a carbon-neutral future. While this is an amazing amount of money and a seemingly good act, there are several problems with it. For one, $500 million is roughly 0.009% of Bloomberg’s $55.4 billion net worth, making it a drop in the bucket for him. Someone making $15 an hour at a full-time job could donate a larger percentage of their worth with just $300. Secondly, billionaires generally produce significantly more carbon emissions than others.

In order to make a true difference in the world, we need to drastically shift the way we do everything, from wealth distribution to the ways we grow food. As people get richer, production and consumption also grow. This, in turn, means more fossil fuels are burned and more carbon dioxide is emitted. Additionally, larger taxes on the rich could help build better infrastructures that are more carbon neutral and would invest in more sustainable practices, buildings, and cities.

This is important for several reasons. As mentioned, those with significantly more wealth (aka those with millions or billions in their bank accounts) emit significantly more CO2 per person each year and have a larger impact on climate change than those in the low to middle classes. A 2018 Civil Society Equity Review report on wealth inequality and climate change stated that:

“The richest 10% of the world’s population, for example, is responsible for over 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And, again, wealthy people overwhelming reside within the world’s wealthy countries. Their emissions support lifestyles that simply cannot, without some far-fetched technological revolution, be shared by all. … These wealthy countries, with their concentrations of ‘luxury emissions’, must be treated very differently from poorer countries.”

Secondly, we cannot rely on philanthropic million- and billionaires to do the right thing. For every Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet, there are equally as rich (if not more so) folks like the Koch brothers funding climate denial and blocking any sort of grassroots efforts fighting for decarbonization and the end of fossil fuels. And even so called “good” billionaires help to create the problems they’re trying to fix with no real accountability to the public.

As mentioned, billionaires are actually a leading cause of climate change and often make their absurd amount of money off the backs of working and middle-class folks and by exploiting workers (looking at you Hobby Lobby and Amazon). In Jane Mayer’s book about the Koch brothers, she notes that “Koch Industries alone routinely released some 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year.” These are the same brothers that are actively funding climate change denial and seemingly have no interest in changing their ways.

“Humans are the virus”: Ecofascism is not the answer.

It would be an understatement to say that Covid-19 has had an immense impact on humanity and the world over the last four months. Hospitals all over have been overwhelmed and health care supplies like surgical masks and disinfectants are near impossible to find. Currently, the death toll is more than 34,000 and several areas around the world have enacted ‘Stay At Home’ or ‘Shelter In Place’ orders or limited travel. Because of all this, places like China and Italy are seeing a drastic change in the environment, like air pollution and water quality.

Many have taken these changes to say that “humans are the virus”, a notion that’s often associated with ecofascism. Ecofascism has been long intertwined with eugenics, white supremacy, racism, and violence. The mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand were blatantly associated with ecofascism, with the El Paso shooter even saying that immigration is ‘environmental warfare’. The solution to climate change, from an ecofascist’s point of view, seems to be reducing non-white populations, a rather racist and flawed resolution. And there are many other flaws with ecofascism. As Sierra Garcia recently wrote for Grist,

This stance [ecofascism] has some serious flaws, like its disregard of the disproportionate impact different people and societies have on the environment, and its questionable assumption that human society and “the planet” are somehow discrete and utterly separate actors. But the most disturbing facet of this argument is how it echoes strains of the environmentalist movement that have advocated for reducing nonwhite, non-Western populations.

But we can’t turn to ecofascism as a way to stop climate change or change the world. People, as a whole, aren’t the virus but capitalism is and one way forward is ecosocialism. As mentioned, those with more wealth (both individuals and countries) produce more greenhouse emissions than those in poverty, which means we need to drastically change behaviors and systems that sustain climate change. It’s cruel, unsustainable, and misguided to sacrifice poor, disabled, or older folks for the rest of humanity to survive, as that won’t be the drastic change we need.

There isn’t much time left to drastically change things to slow climate change and coexist with the earth. While things can easily seem hopeless, it’s important to remember that we’re able to do something.

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