Who is responsible for pollution?
Talk about pollution, and people point their fingers in different directions. Many people point to Asia as polluting more. For example, this chart says Asian countries pollute the ocean more.
Look at where all the so-called mismanaged plastic waste comes from—that is, plastic that makes it into the ocean.
East Asia looks horrible! But look at the plastic waste per capita.
The US dominates, with a few countries in Europe and elsewhere contributing, but without our total population. We see similar results for other pollution per capita.
The media shows Asian cities like Beijing and New Delhi, but western nations pollute far more per capita, meaning citizens like me and probably you.
Focus on who profits from pollution
I propose measuring responsibility by who profits most from pollution. Who could imply country or company. I haven’t found a useful chart for this perspective, but I suggest the motivation to produce pollution comes from profit.
I’d guess companies like Exxon, Chevron, BP, and other fossil fuel companies rank high in profit from global warming pollution so probably motivate a lot of it. Likewise for companies like McDonald’s, Nestle, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other packaging companies for plastic pollution.
Who do you consider most responsible for New Delhi’s air, the people who emit it locally who also have to breathe it or the people who profit from creating and selling the substances that end up in the air, land, and water?
Focus on who pays for pollution
I consider those who pay for the products that pollute responsible too. Buying an airplane ticket means supplying money to the companies that displace people from land they destroy and all the other things polluters do on top of funding what leads to global warming. Likewise with all pollution. Someone is paying for it. All of us pay for some, some of us pay for a lot of it. I believe that focusing on the local air, land, and water focuses on the effect, not the cause.
Let’s focus on lowering profits from pollution, especially buy not buying goods and services that supply those profits.
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