Shifting the Blame


US Environmental Protection Agency

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen steadily. The blame for this issue, argues Lisa Haberly, should be shifted from individuals to the companies who produce the majority of these emissions.

Since 1988, 100 companies have been responsible for 70% of the world’s total emissions. For 43 years, ¾ of our entire pollution has been caused by only 100 corporations, yet we are repeatedly told the problem is us. The blame that greedy companies carry is shifted onto us so instead of targeting them, we will be busy targeting each other. We feel superior to those who don’t buy organic, don’t shop sustainably, and don’t have an entire jewelry collection made strictly from recycled bottles. This pattern of shaming those who are merely trying to survive, living paycheck to paycheck just as ourselves, plagues us as a society. Companies want more than anything for us to be divided, because while we are busy yelling at each other we can’t overhear the sound of them polluting the Earth.

When a white man loses his job to a brown immigrant he blames the immigrant, not his boss who gave his job away in the first place. Conservatives specifically use this common fear of losing your job as well as deep-seated racism and xenophobia to their advantage. We are taught to do no matter what it takes to get the position we want, and are told it requires taking down our colleagues. The concept of “the Corporate Ladder” is the idea of stepping over others so we are able to reach the top. Companies are looking for the cheapest labor possible and the majority of immigrants are willing to provide that, and that is why they get those jobs. Immigrants are not menacingly lurking in the background, waiting to steal someone’s prized position. Once again we are manipulated and pinned against each other, fighting over each other when the original issue is the boss who gave away the job in the first place.

Even in this nihilistic view that there is nothing we as people can truly do since companies are responsible and in control of our climate and jobs, we still must try. Our efforts of solar panels and electric cars do not show substantial impact on the environment in contrast with companies, but they reveal our humanity. But in doing so it is necessary that we do not take our neighbors down in order to raise ourselves up. We can succeed and encourage others to the same as we are without shaming or vilifying them. The American culture of stepping on each other to rise to the top is inhumane. We need to pick and choose our arguments and think critically about who caused this anger in the first place. We have to stop seeing people who are the same as us as the enemy. Simply acknowledging the fact that 100 companies are responsible for 70% of the world’s total emissions is a step because it sheds light on who is truly in control. Only once we recognize who is controlling us can we disable this control.