Sunrise la youth blog

A blog written by SLAY members, updated about once a week!

Carbon Footprint: PR Campaign turned global trend

Ivy Hung (10/17/21)


If you’ve been on the internet, chances are you’ve come across the term “carbon footprint” at least once, whether it's from an avid supporter of changing your diet to save the planet or a niche outdoorsy clothing brand trying to promote their items as eco-friendly. Heck, even by just walking around outside you’re bound to bump into an advertisement promoting some sort of lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint.

Point is- the term carbon footprint has made its surges throughout the world since its first promo in the early 2000s. With such a simple phrase becoming a global phenomenon, you begin to wonder how it came to be.

The carbon footprint made its debut in some scientist’s study in 1996 but it hadn’t yet taken up the popularity it has now until British Petroleum unveiled its first “carbon footprint calculator” in 2004. People were shocked at how their normal everyday lives contributed to the warming of this planet, at least according to their results on the calculator. Flash forward to the present day and you’ll find articles and guides everywhere - from the New York Times to your local newspaper - about how to reduce your individual carbon emissions.

British Petroleum had succeeded and created perhaps the most successful PR campaigns in history. They succeeded in manipulating millions of people into thinking that their own individual carbon emissions amounted to a much greater contribution to climate change than their dumping of waste into hundreds of mainly lower-class and POC communities. 

I’ve got to give it to them, this really is effective propaganda that has been lying right under our noses this entire time. However, this isn’t to say that your own individual efforts to reduce your carbon emissions don’t matter - because they do - but strong evidence, especially from this pandemic, has shown that these efforts aren’t enough. 

In 2020, everyone was self-quarantining, there was barely any travel, and carbon emissions took a sharp dip, perhaps the lowest dip we’ve seen in modern time. Yet all of this has barely made a dent in the amount of carbon saturating in the atmosphere. Think of it like throwing a cup of water on a fire that has been continuously fed loads of fuel year after year- it isn’t going to do much. Not only that, but the carbon emissions made in 2020 still feed into that festering fire. I mean, look at how it took us thousands of deaths everyday and everyone staying at home, along with a stalled economy, to bring it down to the size it was last year. This, along with the fact that the carbon in the atmosphere is at its highest level in at least 800,000 years, pretty much confirms that we’ll need more than a year and heaps of radical changes to shrink that flame to a controllable size. 

British Petroleum, as well as many other major fossil fuel companies, don’t want us to know this, because us knowing this information - information about Earth’s path towards demise - goes against their ideals of exploiting our land for the sake of riches. Luckily, as time goes by, their crimes come out into the light one by one, and more and more people are becoming aware of our climate crisis and joining us in our fight towards a Green New Deal.