Finding ways to be more environmentally conscious in our day-to-day choices has become something that many of us are taking more seriously. Climate change is a global concern; how we choose to move forward and embrace sustainability as individuals represents one actionable step we can take.
While a collective response from determined, like-minded people encourages a society to adopt more eco-friendly practices; the most significant change has to be fueled by robust government-led climate action — which seems futile considering the ‘carbon bomb’ projects that leaders around the world are continuing to support. It’s in our interest to preserve what (literally) underpins our existence; this can only happen if oil, gas and coal industry giants — who are primarily responsible for driving environmental collapse — are held accountable, dismantled and replaced with planet-preserving initiatives.
To put it succinctly, any sustainable choices we undertake at home that promote green living should be coupled with political action. So, how do we achieve this?
The grim reality is that in terms of political change; there’s nothing we can accomplish unless we remove people from government who are blocking the climate action initiatives we desperately need — and that’s a gross oversimplification of the issue once you realize what is keeping these representatives where they are — and why.
The best way to understand how deeply rooted and dominant political barriers towards environmental protection run; all you need to do is look at U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia as an example. A Democrat within a strongly held Republican state, Sen. Manchin proudly displays on his website — under about/bipartisanship/legislation — that he “votes with President Trump” (a whopping 74% during the former administration); and touts his career history of supporting GOP positions 54% of the time (thus far). And why is this significant you ask? Every single Republican Senate member wants to block President Biden’s climate legislation; by consistently voting with them, Sen. Manchin effectively eliminates the United States’ ability to meet any of its climate action goals.
First, he [Manchin] killed a plan that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate-warming pollution. Then, he shattered an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And, finally, he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies or any of the other provisions that the rest of his party and his president say are vital to ensure a livable planet. | The New York Times
It’s understandable he would want to court state voters that keep him in the halls of Congress — but even that is not as simple as it may seem. A survey carried out last year by Research America found that even though West Virginians are proud of their coal industry; identifying strongly with its history, cultural significance for the area and its job creation, 90% of those questioned recognized the benefits of shifting towards clean energy. They’re receptive to change; it just has to be handled in a way that doesn’t abandon their needs.
So, is it merely voter concern that keeps Sen. Manchin from supporting U.S. decarbonization? Do the people of West Virginia really want to stand in the way of meeting the Paris Agreement’s worldwide target of net-zero status by 2050?
In a word, no.
Sen. Manchin took more in campaign funding from the oil, gas and coal mining industry than any other senator; he is literally being paid to safeguard their interests and shape U.S. environmental policy to that effect — which is within his power as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel. He also secretly earned millions of dollars through his scrap coal company Enersystems; yet another personal interest that would be threatened if the U.S. would fully commit to cleaning up its act.
And this isn’t a one off, at least with regards to the power that the fossil fuel industry wields; they fund many members of Congress who all work together to subvert timely climate action. The influence they obtain secures their interests, but this isn’t an issue only impacting America. What this country does has a global reach affecting the lives of billions of people. Governments from around the world need to apply pressure on those who put company or individual profit over saving the planet.
The U.S. has contributed more heat-trapping pollution than any country over time and has been the prime driver of global climate change. […] Whenever presidents or Congress have introduced measures to slash emissions to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, they’ve been repeatedly derailed. | How Decades of Disinformation About Fossil Fuels Halted U.S. Climate Policy (NPR)
To be clear, this isn’t just a Senator Manchin issue; however, by examining his positioning and power, it illuminates U.S. political structures set up to benefit the few and reveals the hold special interest lobbyists have on Congress. We’re struggling with the effects of global warming today; while double dealing, political theatre and the personal financial gain of politicians and industry giants continue to obstruct securing a future that generations to follow can thrive in.
Working on eliminating political barriers that impede climate goals should also remove special interest influence; anyone receiving funding from oil, gas and coal industries should no longer be allowed to sit on or chair any panels or committees that make climate action decisions. The same applies to Members of Congress who are climate deniers (of which there are many).
While we’re diligently focusing on making eco-friendly lifestyle changes for ourselves, we cannot get distracted into thinking that what we’re undertaking is enough. Repurposing, reusing and recycling equally extends to our elected officials; if they don’t step up and act, we cannot support their political career — we must make climate action a central voter issue.
And this is where the last barrier I’m exploring in this article comes into play — voting. With widespread disinformation campaigns that feed division; gerrymandering that manipulates boundaries of electoral constituencies to favor one party; voter suppression and an entire system designed to uphold disenfranchisement and discrimination — it’s clearly not going to be the reliable saviour so many want it to be. However, this belief falls conveniently into the hands of those who want to disempower groups; like the 8 million environmentally conscious voters who decided not to exercise this right back in 2020.
Defeatism nurtures apathy and inaction; but ultimately, who does that benefit? People can still drive progress; we just need to fully grasp what we’re up against. Creating challenges that counteract this is far more complex than I can cover here, but individual climate action could include:
- reading and sharing reputable sources or fact-checking articles that counter disinformation
- becoming unapologetically vocal about holding oil, gas and coal giants accountable (and the politicians they fund) by utilizing social media to raise awareness
- joining grassroots, community-based climate groups that improve sustainability in your area (these can sometimes compel local politicians to perceive this issue as central to election/re-election)
- funding/promoting/supporting high-profile, dynamic and well organized climate advocacy groups such as; Clean Air Task Force, Carbon180, Evergreen Collaborative
- Indigenous People are central to climate action goals; to find out why/more, you should support organizations like: Indigenous Climate Action, Honor the Earth and Seeding Sovereignty
- divesting from 60 of the world’s largest banks that fund fossil fuel projects (to the tune of trillions of dollars) and instead choose sustainable and/or ethical banking
- donating money and/or time to the campaigns of representatives who have a proven track record of environmentalism
- supporting voter participation within your district (especially among groups disproportionately impacted by disenfranchisement); find organizations that help with registration, access to mail-in or early voting and that provide transportation to polling stations (don’t forget to do this for yourself too)
Things can seem pretty impossible right now, but if life has demonstrated anything to me, it’s that there are many more people in this world who will help others than there are who will protect their individual interests or fuel their own hatred. This whole situation is fucked up; there’s no point lying or sugarcoating this harsh reality — but don’t allow that to cloud your efforts. There’s work to be done; we can’t stop now.
How are you supporting climate action goals? Do you think world leaders are doing enough to slow global warming?
Declaring a Climate Emergency Could Unlock Potent Tools for Biden — At a Steep Cost – Politico