Most of the pollution we are experiencing today is a consequence of the production of fossil fuels. Water pollution consists mostly of oil leakages and the remaining plastic products and other non-biodegradable products and other non-biodegradable materials that are all produced with fossil fuel materials that one way or the other culminate or continue their journey in the ocean. Air pollution is mainly caused by cruises, cars, airplanes, and buildings air-conditioning among others. Cars, cruises, airplanes, and machines release Co2 because of the use of fossil-fuel-based materials.
We also know about the clean water issue where public pipeline infrastructures are not maintained properly causing water contamination. Since we are on the topic of pipelines let’s address the earth pollution and water pollution caused by oil and gas pipelines. Gas and oil pipelines many times cross borders, rivers, and forests, so when a leak happens, it means water and soil contamination. Why would a government risk the health of the people it serves? The answer is big money, a large sum of money as payment for creating or facilitating benefits for large corporations and industries. It facilitates the passage on the road of unaccountability.
Accepting Big Money: Representing the People?
Have you ever wondered: how is it possible that government officials that receive their salary from our taxpayers’ money are wealthy? Most of this wealth is justified with “speeches” and “bookselling”. If it was that easy wouldn’t regular people who also give speeches and sell books be part of the millionaire’s club? It is just not only the speeches and bookselling but most importantly the donor money that contributes to that wealth. Some simple solutions to this problem are to enhance the rules of the code of conduct and conflict of interest and monitor compliance but most importantly take money out of politics. This will eliminate the pressure on government officials to work in favor of their donors. Instead, they will be able to work in favor of the people which is what they are supposed to do. At the moment this is not happening. The influence of big money corrupts and destroys any intent to support an initiative that is in favor of the people and the environment like having a proper public transportation system that could reduce the use of cars. It also influences the rules and regulations put in place to control the industries.
For example, there is no proper regulation for the food industry (meat, or for plant-based food). The evidence lies in all the recent outbreaks that we have experienced from the food industry (in meat and plant-based products) all based in the U.S. due to the deregulation within the industry which was implemented by the government to facilitate corporations to self-regulate their production.
Deregulation and the Free Market: A Goldmine for Corporations
We know that the meat industry is harming the environment by causing deforestation as a result of acquiring land, legal or illegal, for cattle and other animals, and the Co2 emissions coming from the production process. But there is not much said about the harm caused by plant-based production. Even if you choose to become vegan there are still plant-based products that also cause harm to the environment mainly because there is no proper control and no transparency. Corporations are able to choose the most convenient methods through the use of big money to obtain the licenses needed to obtain the raw materials they need for their products.
Take palm oil for example. Palm oil has many attributes and the demand for it has increased over the years. Companies such as Nestlé use palm oil in many of their products including the beloved Oreo cookies, Kit Kat chocolate, and Nutella. Their acquisition methods caused serious harm to the flora and fauna in Africa and Asia. Why? Rainforests are often cleared and burned to plant oil palms, destroying the home of fauna like tigers, elephants, and orangutans. It is one of the main reasons for the decline of the Orangutan species that live in these wild open areas which has increased their risk of extinction. The damage has been done and continues to be done. Nestlé has been doing it for years successfully, that is until the social media backlash. Thanks to independent outlets and environmental organizations that posted and wrote about what has been taking place is how the company was exposed.
Because of the backlash coming mostly from social media. the company tried to rectify its methods and has vowed to reach 100% “responsibly sourced” palm oil by 2020 and is using satellite technology to monitor suppliers and blacklist violators. Unfortunately, this is not enough because the damage is getting worse. Waiting till 2020 is not good enough. It is up to the consumer to do something. Would you be willing to stop buying products from irresponsible corporations?
It is not like they don’t have the money to invest in plantations and produce palm oil sustainably. They choose the easy way to obtain more profit.
Soybeans are another example of a very popular product used for both meat and plant-based products. The meat industry uses it to feed the cattle and the plant-based industry uses it as an ingredient for their products including milk, yogurt, sauce, margarine, and flour. Did you know that the demand for soybeans is increasing, they say it’s mainly because of veganism. But in reality, that is not correct, a typical soybean is more likely to end up in a ham-and-cheese or used to vegetable oil or non-food products such as biodiesel.
Because of the high demand world, soybean production has more than doubled in the past 20 years. In order to cater to the demands, corporations had to investigate alternative ways to increase production like expanding soybean cultivation into new areas, such as tropical forests in the Amazon region.
Until a few decades ago, tropical forest soils were not considered viable for soybeans. But advances in farming methods and crop varieties made it possible to grow soybeans profitably in new environments, including tropical forests. Before long, Brazil became the second leading soybean-producing country in the world, and soybeans became one of the leading drivers of deforestation.
The current government in Brazil sees this as a commercial opportunity to stimulate the economy even if it means destroying the Amazon that has been protected from exploitation. In previous years even with this protection, people have been trying to illegally mine and deforest the land. The Indigenous people have been constantly fighting for their rights. Now, that the government is ready to exploit this area businesses see a great opportunity to make a profit. If demands are high corporations will keep looking for the least expensive alternatives that generate the most profit. Even if it means the destruction of flora and fauna.
In simple terms, in deregulated environments, high demand for meat and high demand for plant-based products cause harm to the environment.
Accountability for Saving the Environment
For those that argue that meat production is cruel so is plant-based production. But we also need to look at the why. Why is it cruel? Because there are no rules and corporations determine their standards. Having animals in unsaved conditions is cruel, taking the lands and burning down the homes of indigenous people or poor farmers to plant soybeans is also cruel.
It’s not a problem in one specific country because it is happening all over the world. We all see that there are no rules or that the rules are overlooked yet we don’t ask our government representatives to do something. In part, we are also responsible because we voted these people in to do the work which they are obviously not doing. Try to look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on the soundbites that are posted on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. Be more critical of what you see. There is always more to the story than what is presented especially when it’s a topic related to the environment.
Going completely meat-based will cause the irresponsible killing of more animals causing pollution along the way but going completely plant-based will also have consequences in unregulated environments, especially with the use of herbicides and pesticides that have been proven to kill bees and cause cancer and other illnesses.
With a free market, there is no winner, nor the flora, nor the fauna. This is an issue many don’t like to talk about because it means that we would have to stop finger-pointing and recognize that we all are all part of the problem. Those who do acknowledge it are excluded from the mainstream or simply ignored.
Digging the News
When the Amazon fires escalated, there were a few outlets that published the news but none of them came into the search results when I was looking for environmental news. I believe it has something to do with the algorithms and what story is pushed first. It was very strange in this case because even if you didn’t get the news from Google. there are many artists and influencers in Brazil that people all over the world are following that could have said something on their social platforms. They live there and get the news on a daily bases and chose not to share. Thanks to a few outlets that keep pushing the news out are how it exploded on social media and then the mainstream media had to take it on their agenda. Then you saw all the artists sending prayers to the Amazon after the irreversible damage had taken place already. Imagine what could have happened if we knew what was happening from the start. Instead of prayers, calls to action could have been made to prevent or at least diminish the damage. Once again you see the influence of big money and unaccountability in full swing.
In addition to the Amazon fires, there have been other fires reported around the world some of which may be attributed to the rise in temperatures, but this is not the case for the fires in the Amazon. The Amazonia has value for corporations, but they have been legally prevented to exploit the region due to protection laws in place in several countries part of the Amazon. In Brazil, these protective laws are at risk under the current government. It appears that the government is in favor of commercializing the region not taking into consideration the destruction of nature and the displacement of the indigenous people.
People need to wake up and stop choosing between the lesser of two evils. What is shown in the mainstream is not what is. It is time to accept that there is corruption and that the only way to combat it is to be skeptical, double-check the sources (fact-checking has become extinct in mainstream media), and ask questions. The internet and social media, in particular, is a powerful tools to dig out the facts or find resources to get those facts. Once you find ways to bypass the exclusion of information you’ll find what you’re looking for. If it wasn’t for platforms like Reddit and Greenpeace we would have never known about the Amazon fires, in particular about the destruction of the homes of the indigenous people.
So what now?
Instead of immediately reacting to the soundbites, you must be critical of the information and be proactive to look for evidence. It’s more work to do but in this climate of fake news, it’s needed.
Be critical of your influencers and the media you consume. Find out which sources they use to determine whether they are simply propaganda or sharing fact-based news. Unaccountability will persist if we continue to believe in the smoke screens that are created by the mainstream media. Most of which are distractions to keep the focus away from important issues.
Unaccountability and just the feeling of getting away with crimes against the environment and humanity must stop. At the moment, there is no way to win. If you are planning to use nature-based products or become a vegan, you are in a way helping these high-profile corporations that are profiting from destroying the environment. Things will only change when we do something. It will not happen magically.
First and foremost, the incentive of big money or dark money, whatever you want to call it needs to be eradicated from the government. This means that we need to think of ways to deal with corruption in the government and its institutions.
Actions against indigenous people and nature need to be recorded and properly prosecuted. Justice should be served for everyone. Privileges and special deals should not be given to the wealthy. Especially those that illegally kill animals for their twisted pleasure.
Everyone should get the same type of punishment, not just the poor.
This is the second publication of the series ”Enemies of the Green”. Its intent is to inspire critical thinking and discussions on crimes against Mother Earth. We all can contribute to a better world where we have clean water, clean air, and a beautiful green environment to live in. Every small action will help. Will you do your part?
Want to check out the first publication? Here we go=> Ignorance & Greed