Updated: Aug 7
During the civil rights movement, many prominent activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., often argued that the greatest challenge to racial equality was not the people trying to uphold the oppressive system. Instead, they argued that the greatest challenge was the white moderate that wasn’t empathetic enough to take strong, swift action. While fossil fuel companies and the politicians they fund are the biggest roadblock to sufficient climate action, there is a similar problem among moderates today in climate action as there was during the Civil Rights Movement.
Firstly, I want to re-emphasize that fossil fuel corporations are the biggest roadblock to sufficient climate action because they are paying off politicians in order to stay in business. Through corporate political action committees (PACs), aka corporate-funded lobbyist organizations, the fossil fuel industry has bought out the Republican Party. Since 2016, 65 fossil fuel corporate PACs have given a total of $8.8 million to 132 out of the 147 members of Congress who voted against certifying the electoral college results of the 2020 election. This paying-off has paid off for the fossil fuel industry, as the Republican Party has turned into a climate denying syndicate that has stopped all major federal climate action bills from passing. It is also worth noting that the fossil fuel industry has a few key Democrats on their bankroll as well. Democrat Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Senator who has single-handedly stopped all climate action under the Biden administration, has received $730,620 in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests in 2022 alone, more than any other congressmember. It is also worth noting that Manchin is the chair of the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. That’s a conflict of interest if I’ve ever seen one.
Fossil fuel companies have no reason to stop funding politicians. Their return on investment is astounding, so they will do everything they can to keep the money flowing. This has brought a host of consequences, but most importantly, it has become impossible to fight for climate action by voting alone. We are battling candidates with millions of dollars of corporate funding, and the amount of time it will take for non-corrupt candidates to overcome this hurdle and outvote today’s bankrolled candidates without a larger movement will be too long to wait to take the necessary action on climate change. Someone cannot vote, wait two years for the next election cycle, and then vote again and expect swift policy improvements. Going back to my point at the beginning of this article, if people are not willing to demand the system to change, they are complicit in its crimes. This is also true for people under the age of 18. Not being able to vote doesn’t exempt you from fighting for a better future (it is your future, after all).
If we want to see good climate action (or beneficial action in any of today’s major issues), we need to do more than just vote. We need to work hard away from the polls to grow movements and pressure those in power to listen to the people they are supposed to serve. It might seem intimidating, but you don’t need to start a nonprofit or save a million turtles to help. There are countless options big and small to help your community, your country, and the planet. Go to local beach cleanups and protests, follow some activists on social media, maybe even create your own activist account. Do in-depth research on the issues we face today to get a better understanding of their problems, solutions, and urgency. You can research local activist organizations and NGOs and sign up for their email list, follow them on social media, and volunteer for them when you get the chance. These are just some of the things you can do, and they all have a worthwhile impact. However, the most important thing you can do is talk. Talk to your friends and family about the issues we face and ways that you can help fight these issues. We cannot continue to ignore the problems that are literally killing us. I know it can be hard to talk comfortably about issues as important as climate change, but there is no way to fix problems we ignore. Whatever you end up doing, please do more than just vote because we are fighting the most powerful industry in the world, and we need to do everything we can to fight its dominance.