‘People power is the answer to solving environmental problems.’ Discuss.

People power is the answer to solving environmental problems. Discuss.

Argument Evidence
People have greater mobility and freedom as compared to governments and corporation, and their actions are vital taking the first step in solving environmental issues. The answer Without the layers of bureaucratic red-tape and top-down decision-making that entangle governments and companies, people are better able to organise and carry out operations easily. Grassroots leaders and non-governmental organisations are often able to amass the support of a large number of people, which translates into the large amount of manpower that is often needed when implementing efforts to solve environmental problems.
Unlike governments and firms, there are unlimited possibilities as to how people are grouped together and allocated for each task. The answer The environmental activist organisation Greenpeace has a global outreach with a presence in many countries, a feat only possible when organised by the people. It regularly carries out campaigns and petitions and even checks the operations of companies for any environmental-damaging activities, both done by each country’s Greenpeace volunteers.
The people also hold the power to influence corporations and businesses. The answer In recent years, there is a rise in ethical consumption. Producers are compelled to appease consumers and since people have the power to choose what they consume or ‘vote with their wallet’; their choices determine the decisions made by profit-seeking firms. Labels and certificates like the symbolic ‘green frog’ label by the Rainforest Alliance and the Fairtrade labels help consumers choose products that are sourced and produced sustainably, thereby sidelining companies which do not abide by the same environmental standards.
This has led to an increase of ‘new-age’ products that are identifiable by their minimal and minimalist packaging and recycled paper tags detailing stories behind them. These products abound in food, fashion and other retail industries such as Norwegian salmon, which is caught using nets with the right-sized holes to prevent young fish from being caught. With a slew of accreditation labels, such as those by the Forest Stewardship Council, and the Marine Stewardship Council, people are now given even more power to make informed choices and influence firms to change their often unsustainable practices.
However, the people’s power to influence business decisions cannot yet rival the power of regulators. Rebuttal: Not the answer It is through the government that effective environmental policies are put in place. The Singapore government, through the Green Building Council, has laid out regulations to incentivise developers to build clean and eco-friendly buildings, by awarding them Green Mark Certificates.[1]
Only the government can carry out such changes as they set and enforce the rules that the industry abides by. For example, one of the effective ways to prevent water and air pollution is by making it illegal for producers not to treat their waste products. After all, legislation is what enabled all cars to be fitted with catalytic convertors in most countries to prevent the emission of harmful hydrocarbons into the air.
The people also hold sway over the government as they hold the government accountable for their actions, and thus have the ability to influence the government to make popular decisions regarding environmental problems. The answer In the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, Germany has already decommissioned half its nuclear energy plants and plans to decommission all, switching to wind and solar energy instead in response to the unpopularity of nuclear energy among German citizens.
This is evident even in non-democratic regimes. China is now set to become the largest producer of renewable energy and has built several gigantic solar energy farms in response to citizen’s unhappiness over polluted air.
Critics may argue that there is a limit to people power, as although they have the ability to gather a large number of people, the changes they make are small and do not create much of an impact. Not the answer
In 2018 and 2019, students across the world held strikes to protest against inaction in stopping climate change. In Paris alone, over 350,000 students showed up for the strike in 2019. Germany saw approximately the same number of students striking (300,000). Sadly, the students’ efforts are trivialised and quickly dismissed as truancy.
The Montreal Protocol aims to ban Ozone Depleting Substances. It is the first treaty that was universally ratified by all governments. Ever since it came into force in 1989, the concentration of ozone depleting gases has fallen, and the UNEP reported in 2018 that the ozone layer is showing signs of recovery.
Furthermore, companies in seeking to become popular, may only package their products to project a green image instead of undertaking concrete changes to their production methods. Not the answer Volkswagen recently announced that it had understated the carbon dioxide emissions of its cars, making them seem more carbon-efficient than they really are.
However, it is important to note that people are the ones that get the ball rolling, as ultimately, they pressure the government and firms to implement the green initiatives needed. Rebuttal Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which no country wants to clean up is not under any country’s jurisdiction and would generate phenomenal costs.


On the other hand, the Ocean Clean-up Foundation, an international team of expert volunteers, has successfully conducted extensive research, with the operation being crowdfunded, culminating in a viable solution that it to be piloted in stages.


updated 24Apr 2019


You can watch a video about the student Climate strike in 2019 here


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