I personally care a lot about climate change and I have for a long time.
I recycle, bring my own bags to the supermarket, I reduced plastic bottles by purchasing shampoo bars, I even use a bamboo toothbrush. I try to do my bit for the environment. I want my future children and grandchildren to have a safe place to live but I also want my life now to be healthy.
To me, being a good caretaker to the environment is good for my mental health and my spiritual health. It's also an act of worship that helps me feel connected to our creator.
However, as climate change becomes more “mainstream”, I've noticed many companies and even governments are jumping on the bandwagon with some short sighted and problematic “solutions”.
Quick fix: the plastic straw
Most people have either seen or heard of the video with the turtle having a full length straw pulled out of its nose by some helpful divers.
I myself vowed to never use plastic straws ever again after watching the video! It is awful to watch, I felt like a horrible human being causing this beautiful creation such pain. (I was gifted some metal straws for Christmas that same year).
Not long after I had gotten on the hype train of cancelling plastic straws, I started seeing articles and news reports of how this movement has a negative impact on people with disabilities. This left me in an ethical dilemma.
So what is the issue with metal straws for people with some disabilities?
According to The Guardian, California lawmakers banning plastic straws are being criticized for not considering the impact this will have on people with disabilities that rely on plastic straws.
“What has happened here is a situation that happens time and time again when it comes to the disability community, and that is ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” said Lawrence Carter-Long, the director of communications at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “If people don’t personally need straws, they fail or neglect to realize that there are people that do.”
Often times people with disabilities can’t use metal straws (and other alternatives) mainly due to it being impossible to move into a usable position for the person. It can also be dangerous if the person has a tendency to bite down.
We need to be willing to invest PROPERLY into the solution which may mean losing money as solutions like biodegradable or sugarcane plastic cost more to manufacture. Some companies are currently ditching plastic straws for paper alternatives. This to me, is a lazy attempt to be seen as a caring company that listens to their customers.
The problem with this “solution” is most paper straws are coated with wax so they don’t dissolve in the beverage which means they can’t be recycled and is therefore not a proper solution. It’s easy to take the moral high ground and jump into this fairly new consumer culture of shopping eco. It’s easy for companies to simply label something as “natural” or “eco” and people will buy it.
Electric cars: injustice
More we hear about electric cars and how they will clean our air by moving away from petrol and diesel engines. This is an exciting future to think about! But Amnesty International has been informing us of the human costs involved in collecting the material needed to manufacture these cars.
Already, lithium-ion batteries are used in laptops and other electronics.
More than half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which is one of the poorest countries in the world. DRC is rich with minerals but due to years of corruption, war and limited opportunities, the people all work in these dangerous mines to collect these minerals for low pay.
The concern is that electric cars will put a higher demand so more abuse and exploitation will occur.
As Christians, this should be something we do not stand for! There are so many injustices like these, how do we fight them all? Do we give up and stop caring? Or do we put pressure on the companies that have the power to change things to only use ethical sources or demand their sources become ethical?
Proverbs chapter 16, verse 8 reads, “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice”
I believe a little prayer couldn’t hurt either. But as consumers we hold the power to care about both turtles and people by shopping ethically.
Chanell Diaz is a member of The Salvation Army in New Zealand. She and her husband Ronald both work as child care workers and Chanell is also a qualified Youth Worker through Praxis. Chanell has a heart for justice and enjoys creating art and writing in her spare time.