Bees are trendy. Even in 2019, there are countless students roaming college campuses nationwide with simple bee tattoos and stickers with the catchy, “bees are dying at an alarming rate” meme leaving their mouths in casual conversation. However, these docile insects are a reminder of the beauty and peacefulness of flowers and they are a necessary part of the ecosystem.
Without honey bees and their gift of pollination, the produce section of grocery stores would be significantly lacking. With all of the benefits humans glean from the humble honey bee, they have become an empty symbol of environmental awareness.
The tokenization of bees enables people to slap a sticker on their Nalgene water bottle and move on with their lives while ignoring the systems in place that continue to destroy the planet.
Studies show plastic bags produce the smallest environmental footprint, all things considered, yet are targeted by many as the culprit for global warming and the ever-increasing amount of plastic in our oceans and landfills. The same can be said for plastic straws.
The climate indeed cycles between extreme temperatures, but the industrial revolution sparked a massive, unprecedented increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. This change is causing warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, sea level rise and extreme atmospheric events of which the Earth is unable to cope.
These are well-documented scientific facts and though single-use plastic is an issue, it’s not the hill for consumers to die on nor is it much more than another way for big businesses to capitalize off surface-level environmental awareness while evading their own responsibility.
Studies overseas have shown fishermen have little incentive to bring found nets to a disposal point unless they’re paid to do so. It takes the crew’s time and resources to haul trash from one point to another, and though it would be virtuous of the captain to make that sacrifice, no one is held accountable for cleaning up after themselves.
One popular solution to the sea-waste epidemic is a registry for commercial fishing gear. A commercial fishing boat is far less likely to discard barrels and nets in the water if is items are registered to the captain’s name and the crew is at risk of being fined.
Bobcats need to take the skills college is giving them and implore their elected officials to care. Leading by example is one thing, but incessantly calling big businesses and informing them their actions and choices are doing irreparable damage to a planet they will soon leave is the proverbial missing link.
It will be uncomfortable, but the right thing isn’t always comfortable. In an age of complacency and instant gratification, students must turn away from non-confrontational tactics and the easy route of turning down a straw to meet their environmental-awareness quota for the day.
College students need to force their elected officials and the owners of businesses that benefit from consumers to care, to understand that everyone’s actions have effects and that older generations need to adjust their actions for the sake of future inhabitants of the Earth.
All things considered, banning plastic straws will do little more than getting a bee tattoo and sharing environmental memes will, but it’s worth doing anyway. The social shame of drinking through a straw is something, but it’s not everything. Small actions for the betterment of Earth must be done in conjunction with tangible practices and holding the biggest perpetrators accountable for their waste.
– Naomi Wick is a journalism senior