Today in my climate science class we were discussing the problems surrounding slash and burn deforestation and the devastating effects it has on climate change.
In Indonesia palm trees grow prolifically and there is a lot of money to be made from the palm tree plantations, namely because palm oil is a hot commodity. Palm oil is a major ingredient in a lot of store bought packaged foods here in America, and I am sure all over the world as well. However, because palm oil is so profitable, Many plantation owners use slash and burn techniques to produce as much palm oil as possible and as quickly as possible. But this releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas.
So Indonesian politicians decided to draft a policy on palm tree plantations and designated national parks to protect land from deforestation. Unfortunately, the effects of capitalism are strong and many of the national parks are still vulnerable to slashing an burning. Because of corruption in the political system in Indonesia the policy on national parks and slashing burning is not being respected by enforcers or by farmers. There is far too much money to be made.
This led me to wonder… what can we do? If policy change doesn’t work, what is a more effective avenue. So I asked this question in class. The answer I was given… left me feeling even more helpless. I was told that the responsibility falls on the backs of consumers and companies. Both companies and consumers need to be more environmentally conscious. But not everyone can afford to be environmentally conscious. Palm oil is an ingredient that makes many products cheaper. The highest consumers of palm oil are more likely to be people who cannot afford to buy alternative organic and environmentally conscious products.
We know that class is racialized and gendered. The poorest members of our (United States) community are overwhelmingly minority women (U.S Bureau of the Census, 2010).
So not only is climate change going to most harshly affect the poor, who are mostly Hispanic and Black women, but the poor have the least ability to make environmental change happen.
In (Black Women Writers) class on Monday, we discussed Naturalism, which is a pessimistic form of realism that assumes human have little free will to change their circumstances. After receiving the answer to my question in climate science class, it was immensely difficult for me not to feel helpless and pessimistic.
It left me with my current question. How do we convince people to care more about each other? How do we convince each other that every life is just as valuable as our own. The Earth is shared by everyone. An injury to one of us, is an injury to us all.
I hope this Earth Day post doesn’t leave you feeling helpless. Please let it inspire you. If you have the means to support our environment, do it.