© European Union 218 - Source : EP

The European Union’s new proposed ban on single-use plastic items displays a legislative shift towards action on environmental crises.

Ever since the Paris Climate Accord in 2016, a global preservation agreement signed by hundreds of countries, there hasn’t been much global movement on environmental policy. Although countries agreed to keep global temperature rise below two degrees, environmental policy worldwide has been largely rhetorical. But a new EU policy that bans the top 10 polluting items—making up 74% of European litter—might change that.

Environmental Crises
© European Union 2018 – Source: EP
© European Union 2018 – Source: EP

Historically, environmentalism has largely been a hobby. Authors like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson often wrote about nature, and American aristocrats kept gardens as an expensive pastime. Even as conservation efforts increased, they often served the commodifying purpose for other aspects of life: a prime example is the creation of Central Park. Even in a modern conservation climate, where organizations are dedicated specifically to the purpose of conservation, the sustained human degradation of the environment has been devastating.

Certain scientists have already declared the world’s climate as past the point of no return. A quick glance at ocean acidification, where the pH within oceans has drastically changed, killing numerous sea populations and bleaching coral reefs worldwide, can tangibly show that. The surface area covered by glaciers has never been smaller, and carbon emissions have been widely discussed as destroying the ozone layer and contributing to global warming. The concept of climate refugees has emerged—those stranded and stateless due to human-caused environmental concerns—and is growing every day.

Despite the urgency and scale of environmental crises plaguing our nation, the environmental policy remains on the backburner for most countries. The Paris Accord was the first major step forward in acknowledging the scale of the crisis in the 21stcentury, but even then, most countries have prioritized other policies. The heart of that deliberate de-prioritization comes from the ideology that environmentalism comes at the sacrifice of economic development, the number one priority for most administrations.

But realistically, the opposite is true. Tesla, a technological corporation founded on energy-saving models, has skyrocketed in economic success. Countries like Costa Rica have run on zero fossil fuels for many months now, thriving despite a low-emission mindset. In fact, there’s more money in green energy and environmentally friendly companies than ever and turning towards environmentally friendly options can often revitalize failing economies.

The European Union, by announcing new legislation to dramatically reduce usage and litter of certain single-use plastic items, has taken a bold stance to change that. Instead of just rhetorically referencing environmental crises, the EU is taking legislative action. The EU has chosen to not only acknowledge the physical crises impacting our world but fix them. Hopefully, that choice will ripple through the rest of the world.

Grace Jin

Grace Jin is a student at Yale University. She’s a multi-time national champion in debate and is passionate about intersectional politics from the perspective of Generation Z.