No amount of “likes” will save the planet

We live fully digital lives using technology for everything: socialization, creative projects, and especially to get our news. Lately, it seems as though every day I open my social media, my timeline is flooded with some uncited post about the declining environment being reposted by everyone I know. I see #SaveTheTurtles, #SaveTheAmazon, #ClimateChange, and many similar hashtags trending every day on social media platforms urging everyone to take action to save our planet before it’s too late. Can the information in these posts even be trusted?

It is common knowledge that the media is full of biased opinions and stretched truths that are pushed onto its viewers. Yet, people are so quick to retweet and repost anything that claims to “raise awareness” and “save the Earth” without bothering to fact check it in the slightest. This internet phenomenon of what on the surface seems to be environmental awareness is actually extremely damaging as people are not properly informed on what’s really happening to our Earth or taking any tangible action. 

One of the most popular environmental social media “movements” came to life after a video surfaced a few months ago of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. Suddenly, “Save the Turtles” was everywhere and people began posting about buying reusable metal straws. 

However, National Geographic responded to this exploding trend with the fact that plastic straws make up a mere 0.025% of the plastic in our oceans. Plastic waste in the oceans is an extremely serious and increasingly concerning issue. However, replacing your straws isn’t nearly enough. According to National (link above) Geographic, every year 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. For those truly interested in saving our marine life, tweeting #SaveTheTurtles isn’t going to do it. Instead, try donating to or volunteering for ocean cleanup organizations or make more plastic cuts beyond just straws in your everyday life. 

An even more recent online movement started after the news stated that the Amazon Rainforest is experiencing a wildfire was released. The first issue I noticed on social media was the claim that the fire was being ignored by the press and government officials. This claim bothered me because it seemed to have been taken as fact by the thousands of people reposting it, even though it was completely false. 

The second issue I found was after the news reached social media, “information” posts began coming out. One of the main ones that I saw that was being shared by virtually everyone was claiming that the Amazon produces 20% of the Earth’s oxygen, which raised immense concern from thousands online. However, National Geographic once again responded and denied this viral claim with the truth: that it’s simply impossible. There is not enough carbon dioxide in the air for the Amazon Rainforest alone to produce a fifth of the worlds oxygen. Ecosystem ecologist Yadvinder Malhi calculated that about 16% of oxygen produced on land does come from the Amazon Rainforest, which is most likely where the 20% myth originated from. 

It seems that while the general population accepts the threats of climate change and wants something to be done about it, but not a lot actually is. Social media is flooded with posts about the dangers of climate change and I keep seeing the number of years we have left to save the Earth decreasing constantly. I see the word “irreversible” used in these posts and, through some research, I don’t know that I fully believe this claim. 

I recommend to anyone wanting to make a difference to really do your research on how exactly you can do your part. The biggest way I believe you can help the environment in America is through civil disobedience. Big corporations are the main culprits of gas emissions and the use of plastic, so why support them? If a large portion of the population just stopped purchasing from unsustainable companies, they would lose their business and have to change or go out of business, significantly decreasing their carbon footprint. It is hard to be correctly informed when it comes to real-life issues because of the amount of information and borderline propaganda that is shared online, but now more than ever it is so important that we have the right information to start making a lasting impact offline.