All the Right Words on Climate Have Already Been Said

Sarah Miller, Nieman Lab:

What then? What would happen then? Would people be “more aware” about climate change? It’s 109 degrees in Portland right now. It’s been over 130 degrees in Baghdad several times. What kind of awareness quotient are we looking for? What more about climate change does anyone need to know? What else is there to say?

Several minutes into Marc Maron’s “End Times Fun” special, he jokes that “we did everything we could” to combat climate change because “we brought our own bags to the supermarket… yeah, that’s about it”. I think about that joke a lot — partly because it is very well constructed in a typically Marc Maron sort of way, and partly because, yeah, that feels about right.

I went to art school; I do not know what we can individually do about how much we ruin our planet. We can consume less, finish all the food in our fridge, use as little plastic as possible, and steer away from our most excessive instincts. But after all that — what then? Everything I have read points to a bleak future for anyone living near a coastline, in particular, or in an already-warm region unless there is significant intervention from governments and private industry.

My feeds in NetNewsWire often juxtapose distressing stories like those against, say, a recent issue of Today in Tabs where it is pointed out that fast fashion company Shein launches ten thousand products every month — over three hundred a day, every day — and this is completely okay in the eyes of some because it is merely satisfying demand. The machine churns, it spits out a $17 patterned shirt that you can own for just four monthly payments of $4.25, Shein invests some of its earnings into developing a different patterned shirt that it will sell you for $19, and apparently everyone is happy with the significance of this arrangement. Nobody has to think about how it is possible to fit the entire production costs of a shirt into under twenty Canadian dollars, nobody has to concern themselves with the lifespan and integrity of that garment, and Shein can repeat it all tomorrow when it launches another three hundred new items.

The article linked in that Tabs newsletter says that Shein shotguns products into the marketplace, then uses that sales data to create its next batch of products. But that basically means that it has produced plenty of goods that have been discarded by design. Shein knows it is going to waste many things it makes; that is core to its strategy.

This sort of structure repeats itself on my laptop with alarming frequency: I read a story about the climate we have created through decades of disregard for our waste, and then I read a story about something that is wasteful by design because that is how it has become successful. I will drink a glass of water — incidentally, sourced from a river fed by melting snowpack on a glacier that has been receding at alarming speed — and try to reconcile everything I have ever read about our deteriorating climate with our continued exploitation of this planet. It feels hopeless.