One leaf won’t save the Earth

Jake Hopkins, Opinion Editor

Whenever my family went to the park when I was younger, I would always get the insatiable urge to pick a leaf off of whatever plant we happened to be walking by. I’d pick off a leaf, then spend the next 10 minutes tearing it into fun shapes. However, my mom used to scold me, telling me not to hurt the plants. I would reply that it was just one leaf.
“But what if everyone took one leaf, Jake? Then the plant would die.”
Here’s the thing, though: not everyone takes a leaf.
Taking one leaf—or even 20—doesn’t kill the plant. What kills the plant are the gardeners who cut it down.
Sometimes little bits of harm are acceptable because it is not worth the time or effort to fix them. Instead of telling kids who take a leaf not to, the way to ensure the plant’s survival is to keep the gardeners away.
This same principle can be applied to environmental protection efforts today. We hear talk about what you as an individual can do to help. Perhaps you’ve heard how recycling this piece of paper and composting that piece can make a difference. However, the depressing fact is that the individual can do very little in his day to day life to stop the negative path we are headed down. This responsibility is left to large corporations.
Greenhouse gasses are an example. A 2016 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that 22 percent of greenhouse gasses are produced by industry and 28 percent by electricity.
Both these sectors, representing 50 percent of emissions in the U.S., produce emissions primarily through fossil fuels and coal and are both out of reach for the average American citizen. While people could boycott goods from companies or try to switch their homes to solar power, those efforts provide an unreasonable amount of inconvenience and cost for the consumer. It is up to the companies to improve their methods.
However, the same study shows 28 percent of emissions come from transportation. This means you can have an impact by carpooling or taking the bus. But only about half that percentage is passenger cars. The other half is corporate trains, planes, trucks and ships that are again beyond reach.
So our focus should not be on the inconvenient changes a person can make in their life to have a small impact on the environment, but rather on how we force large corporations to be environmentally responsible. The individual should vote for environmentally friendly candidates, or run for office himself.