Lifestyle, Psychology, Travel

Why I don’t think billionaires should fund ocean cleanups

“Woah, hang on there, what did you just say?” Well, let me explain. This post is in response to a tweet that has gone viral but I actually disagree with. Here me out, I shall explain (and no it’s not because I hate the environment)! Why I don’t think billionaires should fund ocean cleanups can be explained in a few reasons…. Hope it gives you something to think about and consider when making choices.

The Frugal Frenchie

Lacking responsibility

If you look around you, everywhere you look your actions are somebody else’s responsibility.

Of course, this is necessary, we are limited in resources and time, but do we ever actually stop and be thankful? Even something as simple as people emptying our bins. Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen if these weren’t emptied? Would we reduce our rubbish or would we just toss it on the pavement, pretend it was somebody else’s or just hope somebody else would move it?

Working in retail, it’s easy to use this example but when you look at something or drop something, do you instantly pick it up or do you look shifty and walk past it? You may say no you don’t, but I know that many people do. In fact, a store is a perfect representation of what we do to this planet. We look at something and then discard it, we try something then discard it, we drink something *cough McD cups and costa cups are the worst to find on tables* we discard it. Geez, a colleague has even picked up a used nappy from the middle of a table.

Why? Because if it’s not our responsibility, we don’t care! Don’t deny it, it’s true. There’s such a lack of accountability in this world, from something as small as walking in a shop, let alone distant oceans that we can’t see being impacted day by day, the fishes reducing in number, extinction, deforestation?

In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called the bystander effect. You often see this being demonstrated in social experiments- who will help this person on the street etc. Why is it that one person helps then everyone crowds to help, but when nobody helps, that person is ignored? Know what I mean? This also applies to the environment, however. If you see somebody littering on the beach, or like Hyde Park this weekend, “oh they didn’t get in trouble, I’ll just do it too, nobody will notice….” “They didn’t put it in the right bin? Oh wait, it’s all mixed, oh I’ll just put it in here too, it doesn’t matter….”

On a global scale though, we’re nearing a population of 8 billion people, this has a massive impact! So for one or a few billionaires to fund such a massive cleanup, do you know what that says? Oh, well it’s ok because people are funding it to be cleaned so it won’t actually end up in the ocean….

The non-believers

Somehow, and for whatever reason, there are still people, some famous influential people too, that still do not believe in global warming. They ignore the physical evidence, the mundane things we experience, to the increase in the prevalence of natural disasters, even to empirical evidence shoved under their noses.

Unfortunately, the majority of the human species are stubborn. Even with considerable evidence, it took ages for people to believe that the Earth is round, and even now, in 2019, there are still some people who believe it’s flat. People choose what they want to believe, what they have grown up to believe and sometimes, change just doesn’t sit well with them.

The confirmation bias- are you loving all these psychological twists?- is a bias in our cognition; how we think. It’s a cognitive shortcut that we use daily and it’s not always a negative thing. This bias essentially makes us only see evidence that confirms our thoughts and beliefs and ignores, or denies evidence that contradicts us. An example can be found in a lot of things, including our beliefs about ourselves. You may consider yourself of average intelligence because of your history of average scores in tests. If suddenly you work hard and see yourself constantly improving, you may ignore this as evidence that you’re actually clever, and instead, just think “oh I’m going through a good phase” or “oh no I’m not clever, those tests were just easy.”

If a billionaire just pays for this mess to disappear, all those who contributed won’t just ever feel guilty or accountable for their participation, but those who don’t believe our planet is going downhill and being destroyed will just think “It’s not that bad, look how easily it was cleaned up. There’s no problem, I still think it’s dumb to pay 5p for plastic bags.” See my point?

Nothing will change

*Newsflash* “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is cleared, thanks to billionaire X contribution.” Amazing! Incredible! Now what? Apart from the physical change in the ocean, what will have actually changed? Have laws changed to ban plastic? Has more plastic become recyclable? Have people made better choices? Have companies changed their packaging regulations? Nope, nope and nope.

Some countries are making changes, which is a step in the right direction but cleaning that patch won’t remove the bystander effect or make people realise the impact they’re having. We need a change in laws, a reduction in plastic availability, a more environmentally efficient way to shop and that should just be a minimum requirement.

What will happen when more countries follow suit? We can’t just rely on billionaires….

I am all for helping the environment, I really really am, but the change has to start from us. The dismissing of what we’re doing because “we’re only 2/4/6” people from the entire world needs to stop. We need to be encouraged to reuse, recycle, avoid fast fashion, encourage reusable products; not shoving it on the shoulders of one person who will make our mess disappear only for it to just start accumulating for the next century.

Change starts with you and me, not somebody else.

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