While massive industries and exploitative individuals point fingers at each other, our climate continues to burn in an inextinguishable fire. For a long time, there has been a heated debate as to which aspect is largely responsible for the deterioration of climate - large-scale industrial activities or the negligence of the common people. This unnecessary discussion is blinding people to the obvious fact that the responsibility for climate action trickles down from the industries to the individuals. Both are interconnected – and must work together for the betterment of the environment.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for instance, indicates that transportation is the major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the modern world (29% of all the greenhouse gas emissions in 2019). The major culprit behind this grave trend is the burning of fossil fuels required to run different vehicles, ships, and planes. To tackle this problem, large corporations rally individuals to use public transportation to minimize harmful emissions from their vehicles. The common folk, on the other hand, point out that their individual lifestyle choices would account for less than a fraction of the damage caused to the environment. In the quest to find the perpetrator, both parties actively forego the notion of coming together to find sustainable solutions. The normalization of electric cars, for instance, is an achievable idea to combat climate change effectively. For this to work properly, the responsibility shall have to start from the top industries manufacturing affordable electric cars to steadily replace fuel-based vehicles. The umbrella of climate action would then trickle the responsibility down the shoulders of individuals – to make the difficult switch to electric cars for the sake of the environment, and for the sake of the generations that are yet to live on our planet. Of course, there are a lot of variables that haven’t been introduced to this complex equation. However, the unified efforts of industries and individuals could overcome all sorts of hurdles.

Another good example would be the rectangular relationship between food retailers, supermarkets, consumers, and climate. As per a report published by EPA, an average grocery or retail store is responsible for the emission of 1,383 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide per year from just energy consumption. They record emissions of about 1,556 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide per year from leaked refrigerants. For a better perspective, the harmful emissions released by an average retail store are equivalent to the Carbon Dioxide emissions released by 635 everyday vehicles. Similarly, supermarkets are thriving because of how efficient they are at undercutting the prices of everyday products. The main reason behind their affordability is that most of the products in these supermarkets are derived at a great cost – the cost of our climate. The Sumatra rainforest in Indonesia is home to some of the worst cases of industry-based exploitation. Massive wildfires are intentionally set off in the forests of Sumatra to create palm oil plantations, which grow the cheapest vegetable oil in the world. The vegetable oil is then filtered into some of the most common products for everyday use –cooking oils, cosmetics, detergents, and so on. Top brands like Quaker, Doritos, Nissin, and many others that you would find in supermarkets are using this vegetable oil to undercut their competitors. This results in massive setbacks in the global progress to battle climate change as wildfires release an obscene amount of smoke and carbon dioxide into the air.

The role of an individual in this relationship is quite clear – “the consumer is king” as we so often hear or read is what’s important in this equation. It is the responsibility of the consumers to boycott all such products and services, thereby disabling the culprits from profiting at the cost of our environment.

The roles and responsibilities of both the industries and individuals are interlinked. Many companies have laid-down environment-friendly reforms to tackle climate change. The common people, particularly the student bodies, are actively participating in preserving the environment as well. The projects Irtiqa and Shrimati by Enactus JMI, for instance, aim to tackle the pollution caused by plastic waste by launching a line of bamboo-based products and reusable sanitary pads respectively. Common people have it worse, of course, as the compulsion to make their ends meet is significantly more prominent than it is for larger corporations. Climate action, however, was never going to be easy – not for the industries, and neither for the individuals. The action of either one of them is nearly not enough, as demonstrated in the examples above. Only the combined efforts of the two will pose a serious challenge to the grave issue of climate change.


Anzal Khan

Anzal Khan is a 2nd year student, currently pursuing B.Com (Hons) from Jamia Millia Islamia. For him, writing has always been a way to extend beyond the limitations of his own life, as is evident from his desire to write short stories and create diverse characters out of imagination. Despite his family’s love for plants, he has not inherited the gardening gene and hence whole-heartedly supports the noble cause of vegetarianism.