Environment Holidays Perspective Top

On Earth Day, we must do more than post online

At a September 2019 school strike for climate in Kadikoy, Istanbul, Turkey (Bilge Nur Güven/YJI)

ISTANBUL –  In a world where activism has become mainstream, one is compelled to ask, what defines activism?

The author with her “Act Now” on climate sign.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as “the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one.”

By this definition, social media trends such as posting environmental infographics or tweeting #BlackLivesMatter and #SaveRalph do not contribute to change. The aim of such actions is solely to relieve oneself of their own guilt of inaction.

This phenomenon is greatly mimicked by the act of “greenwashing.” A striking example would be when the fuel company Shell – which is responsible for a great deal of carbon emissions – launched ad campaigns stating their support towards a “low-carbon future.”

In the simplest of terms, this is false advertisement. A fossil fuel company that profits from extracting natural resources and burning them is not in any way helping to restore the environment.

At this point, you might be wondering what a random internet user and a multi-billion-dollar company have in common.

Both parties’ objectives do not lie in inciting immediate change. They are participating in a herd, where everyone seems to be following the trend of caring for some cause.

A sign in Turkish that says, “We want climate justice.” (Bilge Nur Güven/YJI)

Someone on Instagram, reposting about the fires in Australia, does not actively contribute to preventing those fires. Nor does Shell campaigning about wanting to save the environment actually stop its continuous destruction of it.

A sign for Earth Day urges people not to consume, but to barter or exchange instead. (Bilge Nur Güven/YJI)

Instead, these stunts create and support an atmosphere of misinformation and misdoing. When millions of people collectively decide that posting about an issue online is all they need to do to support a movement, the actual change-making process is put on halt.

Dismantling a corrupt system is unfortunately not as easy as it might seem on the internet.

If on April 22nd, Earth Day, you will be posting a quote by David Attenborough, make sure to follow through with your actions. Go to protests, donate to local activist groups, learn about the intricacies of these issues.

And don’t forget, as Greta Thunberg said, “No one is too small to make a difference.”

Bilge Nur Güven is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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