Environmentalism: Can it transcend the trend?

Cover image by Sonja Guina on Unsplash

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the cycles and fluctuations of mainstream attention on the internet. Whether vaguely or deliberately, you’ve observed the parasitic nature of the hashtag, as it latches onto summative phrases bursting with the most widespread interest... until that phrase is drained of interest and everyone hops on over to the latest trend. Yet, somehow the internet has had massive, long-term impact on global society. The question is which hashtags, trends or fads can burst out of our screens and spread into the real world?

Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

While wildfires similarly burst into flame in California, the Amazon, and Australia , we question whether environmentalism has transcended a trend by preventing the world from plunging further into destruction, or instead will it remain entangled in hypocrisy like its symbolic dolphin caught in fishing nets? Pictures of plastic phone grips, shiny poster boards, and polyester shirts declaring that we should “save the turtles,” “save the Earth,” and “save the trees” may seem ironic and disheartening signs of a movement destined to fail, yet, when one zooms out to see the big picture, the already existent shifts from culturally spurred awareness of environmental issues demonstrate that environmentalism can transform from a fad into constructive change.

Gateway to self-education & Impact

You may be of the opinion that a comprehensive understanding of today’s environmental issues might only be gained through extensive study of its involved sciences, such as through a dedicated class or at least informal self-education from empirical sources. Yet, many of us who desire a better awareness of environmental issues don’t have full access to that education all the time. We also don’t always have the financial or time resources to keep up with such a dynamic topic. 

So how do we stay educated and then make an impact?

 This is where the headlines and passing calls for seemingly “small” behavior changes come in, as they are able to squeeze into moments of your busy day. While #refusingthestraw may seem a drop in the bucket of a world of plastic waste, and the public mind already seems to have moved on from the events of the UN Climate Summit, the dominoes have continued to tumble. Straws pointed us towards the rest of plastic waste. Further, dwindling global attention towards the climate summit developed into long-term pressure on company and government leaders to deliver on made (and unmade) promises to lower their carbon emissions. 

Don’t undervalue subscribing to blogs, news sources, and a supplementation of social media as a way to self-educate on environmental issues and lifestyle changes so much so that you don’t self-educate at all. Here are some reputable examples to check out:

Blogs

Social media accounts

The Climate Reality Project

Instagram: @earthalliance

Recycle Now

Instagram: @zerowastenerd

CSR Europe

Instagram: @plastictides

Grist

Instagram: @lifebeyondplastic

Planet Ark

Youtube Channel: Ashley’s Conscious Life

EcoFriend

Twitter: @mongabay

The Guardian’s Environment Blog

Twitter: @GlobalGoalsUN

EVAS+: If you aren’t already subscribed, this blog isn’t a bad place to start!

Instagram: @Evas.brush

 

Creator of more diverse concern

Certain environmental trends have been criticized in the past for discriminating against or judging those who cannot fully participate, such as the working class, disabled, and those who live in food deserts. This is most obvious when environmentalism is labeled as a movement requiring extra spending on “green” products, sacrifice of items meant to address disabilities, and inattention to other issues. However, environmentalism at its essence is to remove obstacles in the way of eco-friendly change and to then make that change however you are able. When this accurate message is spread across media as a desirable way of life, low-commitment vehicles such as social media trends are able to reach a wider audience that may eventually make higher commitments to environmental change. Minimalism, secondhand fashion, replacing meat with less expensive proteins, and even environmental activism have successfully reached a wide range of groups as they are sensationally presented as not only eco-friendly and economical but also as ways to keep up with the trends.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Demands greener products and input

Businesses are just as concerned with keeping up with trends as the public. Consumers such as ourselves can’t discount social media as one of the most expansive forums to collectively or individually demand higher ethical and innovative standards in businesses. Whether people call for improvement in environmental health for workers, a commodity chain, or the products offered, businesses must listen at some level to maintain a reputable brand and consumer demand. Even when you simply spark conversations about what actions you can take to help the environment, this has symbolic and moral significance towards creating a more environmentally active culture that won’t accept and resort to less energy-efficient products. Trends’ low-commitment allows for a larger audience to suddenly push companies and politicians to pursue more eco-friendly initiatives, make more green options available, and support environmentally aware policies. Don’t be afraid to hop on the trend: environmentalism may seem like a train headed nowhere, but it’s individual shovels of coal that fuel the journey towards sustainability, restoration, and conservation… er, that is, the train’s renewable energy of choice.

But let us know what you think. Are trends a blessing or a curse to saving the planet… or something in-between?

2 comments

Very well-written and thought-provoking. You made it personal and applicable to my every day life. I hadn’t even thought of your points

Elise Basiletti May 10, 2020

Wow, incredible article and the content means a lot. Well done Miss. Cain, I am very proud of you.

Estela David January 30, 2020

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