Climate change is an important conversation which needs to be highlighted by everyone, but often, the conversations do not target the root cause of the problem—the overconsumption from major corporations.
Of course, little things matter, like recycling materials which can be reused and using less plastics on the personal level. However, many of the poor sustainability practices which contribute to most of the carbon emissions are not due to the everyday person living barely at their means. The corporations mass produce materials that are harmful to the environment—they produce hundreds, if not thousands, of products each week and then overproduction of perishable products causes even more of the resources to end up in landfills where they produce even more emissions from their decomposition. It is not as easy to decrease the utilization of plastics when many of the foods and household products which are sold are facilitated through plastics.
Often, low-income households are considered to be the main topic of discourse when it comes to climate change and improving the standards at which people are living to create a more sustainable and sufficient lifestyle. However, it is these same individuals who are often the most resourceful and tend to only take as much as they need. They are living according to what they can afford and the resources they have around them, due to financial, and often discriminatory, reasons. Limited financial resources mean making the resources purchased stretch, and limited access to healthier and more sustainable options means having to make the best of a bad situation. Low-income areas are often the neighborhoods of groups which have been racially marginalized, and the lasting effects of redlining still actively create food deserts. Individuals who are victims of systemic racism should not be blamed for supporting businesses and corporations which have poor environmental practices if they have not been given the access to businesses and resources which would give them the option to support more sustainable environmental practices.
Of course, the businesses which actively try to change the types and volume of the materials used by businesses exist, but it is harder for low-income individuals to purchase from these companies. The companies are often targeted towards the middle class and do not create products which are financially attainable for those of lower incomes. Furthermore, they undermine the notion of decreasing overconsumption by promoting consumption in a way which is a “lesser evil.” For example, the creation and promotion of paper straws versus metal straws. Paper straws are, of course, better than plastic straws because they compose at a faster rate than their plastic counterparts. However, they are useful for a shorter amount of time because they are wet paper, often encouraging the use of more than one straw during a sitting. However, promoting metal straws is a better option because they can be washed and reused multiple times.
So, when asking whether climate change is a form of oppression, I would argue that it is. It is yet another way to pinpoint “the people” as the cause for their own problems when it is actually capitalist greed and the overconsumption of corporations which creates poor environmental conditions for the masses. This greed creates oppressive environmental conditions for the masses because corporations do not adjust their company practices. Then, once damaging the environment, they shift responsibility to the individual for the sake of profit and to promote other products. This narrative creates an oppressive cycle which disadvantages everyone.
Pontificator, Overthinker, Lover of Witty Banter.
Is this thing on?