Submitted Date 02/09/2019

It’s apparent that our planet is in trouble. The signs are there: ocean acidification, increased tropical storm activity, and microplastics in sea life. There are cities now, that are so polluted that nobody can live there. Sinkholes are opening up and swallowing buildings. If it sounds dramatic, that’s because it is. Who’s going to fix this mess? I look around and I see a lot of fingers pointing.

Some fingers point to the policymakers. Why don’t they pass more stringent regulations? Why do they let paper mills pollute rivers and oil companies use fracking? Why do politicians shake hands with Monsanto and Dupont? It’s conspiracy in Washington that’s to blame!

Another group points to industry. Why don’t more companies use reclaimed materials? Why aren’t their CEOs socially responsible? Why do corporations care more about profits than they do about the Earth? After all, it was industrialization that got us into this mess in the first place!

Then there are those who say it’s up to the individual. Why don’t we stop using plastic straws? Why don’t we move to a zero-waste lifestyle? Why don’t we spend more time volunteering to clean up the greenway? I mean, it’s the consumer that creates too much trash; their vehicle that produces greenhouse gases!

The truth is, the more time spent finger pointing, the less real change happens. While everyone plays the Pollution Blame Game, those who stand to profit from the status quo sit behind their big oak desks and grin. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that some of them had started the rhetoric themselves. Nobody wants to be the bad guy in the room while many just want it to be someone else’s problem.

Which of the three groups above need to clean up their act? Is it the policy makers, industry, or individuals? The answer is ALL THREE. Those individuals who point their fingers at industry and policy are not only shifting blame and responsibility, they are failing to recognize their own power.

There are many things that you and I, as individuals, can do to affect change. Regardless of income, free time, or political inclination, everyone can make small changes to their lifestyle that will make a difference. They may seem insignificant. After all, you’re just one person, what possible impact can you make? But every country, every agency, every organization is made up of individuals. If nobody thinks they can affect change, then nothing will get done.

If you’re someone who feels that industrial pollution is the biggest problem, take action to combat industrial pollution. Corporations are built on profit. Profits come from selling goods and services to people. Where you put your dollars is where you put your support. So, while to some extent supporting industry is unavoidable, it’s important to pay attention to where you spend your money. Just don’t give it to companies you think are irresponsible.

If it’s policymakers who are responsible in your eyes, make sure the ones in power represent your beliefs. Make your voice heard at the local level. You can do this with your vote, of course, but that’s not all. Share your support for your candidates with your friends, go to a city council meeting, donate to your favorite cause. You can even volunteer in a campaign.

The point is, don’t discount your abilities. You have the power to change things, you have a voice that’s worth being heard, your actions do matter (good and bad), and your vote (whether it’s with your wallet or your ballot) is important. Don’t sit back and let the world crumble around you, use your power to get what you need and what you want. Find others who want the same things and combine your powers. Hold those who have more power than yourselves accountable for their actions too. Even if you do just one thing to move the world in the right direction, it counts.

*photo: "Art Made by from plastic trash in the sea" by Art Bierman via Flickr (


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