Why Paper Straws and Veganism Won’t Fix Climate Change

Climate change has become a highly debated issue in recent years. With people across the globe protesting for a change and young activists such as Greta Thurman raising awareness, it’s an impossible issue to avoid. As with any issue, people begin to form opinions and take sides on how to fix the issue. The issue of climate change has prompted people to ditch plastic straws and promote going vegan in an attempt to save the planet. 

 

Now let me insert a disclaimer: I have no issue with people wanting to reduce their carbon footprints by using less plastic and consuming less animal byproducts. Everyone should do what they can to be more environmentally friendly. I do, however, have an issue with people ignoring the fact that plastic straws and meat consumption aren’t the real reasons for the environmental disaster we’re currently facing. 

(Photo by dolgachov via videohive.net)

 

Let’s start with the issue of plastic. Regardless of whether or not we use paper or plastic, companies will still continue to produce plastic and that plastic will eventually have to be thrown out. Furthermore, while paper straws might seem more environmentally friendly because sea turtles can’t choke on them, they require more energy and resources to produce than plastic straws. This essentially means that more greenhouse gasses are emitted during the production of paper products than plastic ones, which negates the point of switching. Also, how many restaurants do you see with a compost bin to put those paper straws in? Probably not a lot, if any. They will most likely end up in a landfill full of other trash, and since landfills are designed to prevent decomposing, these paper straws will just be adding onto heaps of trash. Recycling paper straws at home may not be so easy either. For example, if you use a straw to drink a smoothie or any other thick liquid, you won’t be able to recycle it because paper materials with remnants of food on them can not be recycled.

(Photo by Ronedya via shutterstock.com)

 

As for veganism; yes, in theory it would be amazing if most of the human population decided to cut back on our meat consumption. However, many people who push for veganism as a solution to climate change fail to understand how much of a privilege it is to be able to go vegan. Besides the obvious risk of malnutrition, most vegan food is not cheap. Also, people who live in inner-cities generally do not have access to grocery stores that supply vegan-friendly options, therefore automatically putting people from lower-income backgrounds at a disadvantage.  

 

Beyond this, humans have been consuming meat since the beginning of time. Indigenous cultures throughout history and even today have been consuming meat as a staple of their diet without affecting the environment around them. The mass production/consumption of meat that’s actually harmful to the environment can attributed to large corporations who profit off of it, not individuals who refuse to go vegan. 

(Photo by Prathap Nair via livemint.com)

 

Thus the problem of climate change has little to do with our plastic and dietary choices. The problem lies within big companies exploiting resources. The problem lies within centuries worth of imperialism that robbed developing countries of their resources. The problem does not lie within us as individuals. In fact, a study by The Guardian showed that a third of all carbon emissions didn’t come from our plastic usage or our refusal to go vegan, it came from 20 large fossil fuel firms who exploit gas, coal, and oil at the expense of our planet. 

 

As this issue grows, we need to stop making excuses for these big corporations by debating over whether or not we should use paper or plastic and whether or not we should eat meat or drink milk. We need to stop getting sidetracked by these small issues and letting these firms slide. Big companies are and have always been the reason for climate change. While we may seem powerless in such a situation, we need to keep protesting and keep pushing these companies to stop damaging our planet and to think about more than their greed.