If you are a person like me who moved from a third world country (Turkey) to a first world country (Germany), probably your priorities and problems are different now. You don’t think about freedom of speech and press, democracy, having the fear of being sick and losing your job, drinkable tap water, purchasing power, high inflation rate, traffic jam, living inside of ugly buildings, etc. Now, you probably think about your hobbies, your next vacation, the next thing you will buy, how you can improve your skills and become better at your job and how to contribute to the community surrounding yourself or humanity. That’s what happened to me.
I’ve been thinking about the things that I use and buy. For example, red meat. Red meat was a kind of luxury product for me when I was living in Turkey. Even today, when people compare the purchasing power between Germany and Turkey, the first thing they will do is comparing the price of one kilogram of minced meat. In Germany, red meat is cheap comparing to Turkey and once you have something cheap as much, you are wondering how it can be that cheap.
While Joaquin Phoenix giving his Oscar speech, he mentioned how we are stealing cows’ babies to take their milk. I discovered that he is vegan, and he was also one of the narrators of a documentary called Dominion. It is a documentary about animal agriculture. It is hard to watch. After seeing it, you will probably hate yourself and humanity. The documentary clearly shows why red meat (not only red meat, all the other animal products) is cheap in many western countries.
Today, we can eat cheap meat and drink milk thanks to industrialized husbandry. On the other hand, while producing those products, we treat animals like they are not living creatures but objects that don’t feel anything. We don’t hesitate to torture them, steal their babies and kill them in a very wild way so we can eat their flesh. Before performing all of these, we put them into a small cage, the place that they will live until the end of their life. Some people can argue that this is how nature works, some predators eat weak animals. I don’t agree because those predators do this because that’s the only way for them to survive and they don’t industrialize their process as we do. On the other hand, we humans, the smartest animal on the planet, have many alternatives. Instead of using those alternatives we keep torturing those animals. Why? Because we just want to eat meat and don’t want to pay so much money. We don’t want to change our habits or lifestyle. We only want to enjoy the taste of a juicy steak.
Not only animal agriculture has a dark side. After seeing a video called, The Banana Republics, I saw how the dictators in Latin American countries dominate the banana industry. I guess there is no need to explain that there is no democracy in those countries and how those dictators ruling them. As a person who likes to eat bananas, especially on Monday and Wednesday, when we get fresh fruits at the company, after seeing the video, I’ve checked the brand of the bananas we get. It wasn’t Chiquita or Dole, the ones which are mentioned in the video, it was Selvática. It comes from Ecuador and I don’t know if there is any connection between this brand and the bad brands. The only thing that I know is the banana industry has a dark side as animal agriculture. I am not just talking about funding those dictators, while I was searching about the banana industry in Ecuador, but I also found this: “In December 2014 and as far as Ecuador is concerned, bananas are mentioned in the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.”. We can see the same pattern as we’ve seen in the animal agriculture industry. Thanks to the bad practices of producing the product, we can buy the product by just paying little.
Whenever I see an Ecuador sticker on the banana that I am going to eat, I am always asking myself: do I need to eat this? Can I live without eating this? Why do we need to get those bananas from Ecuador? Can’t we just eat locally grown other fruits? Why am I have to fund those dictators for the sake of eating a sweet banana?
When you start thinking about capitalism and its effect on the environment and our society, you can effortlessly find many examples. While watching the documentary Before the Flood, there was a part that Leonarda DiCaprio’s visit to Indonesia. It seems that people and companies in Indonesia burn the forests there so they can plant palm trees and produce palm oil. While burning those forests, they are not only creating CO2 but they also making those places uninhabitable for animals like orangutans.
Palm oil is one of the cheapest vegetable oil that you can find nearly in every junk food. The most famous one is Nutella. More than 50% of Nutella is palm oil. While making my research about palm oil, I found this website called Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard. The website shows the big brands if they are committed to a responsible palm oil future, free from deforestation and destruction. You can see the company (Ferrero) behind Nutella that has a 21.5 score out of 22. It seems like they are doing a good job. However, if you check the other big brands, you can see that they are doing a good job as Ferrero. For example, PepsiCo, instead of using sustainable palm oil, they prefer buying credits to offset their unsustainable palm oil usage. (you can get more details about the credit system here) Their score is 14.9 out of 22. So as you can see, those big companies burn the forests in Indonesia and kill the orangutans just for us so we can enjoy our favorite junk food.
Not only animals, not only the environment but sometimes capitalism also affects many people’s life. 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Every day while we are driving our cars to work, we are harming our planet. Even though this is already enough to stop using cars, to use our cars we are putting gas which is produced from oil that we bought from mostly Russia and Saudi Arabia. For example, if you look at Germany (where I live) to see where oil comes from, you will see Russia with 31.4% as our main crude oil import source. When you look at the whole of Europe Union, you will see that 6.6% of crude oil that we use today comes from Saudi Arabia. If you live in the United States, 13% of your oil comes from Saudi Arabia. If you live in Japan, it is 40%.
When you look at Russia and Saudi Arabia, you will see one common thing, their extremely low democracy index. When you look at the index, you will see that Russia is in 134th place and Saudi Arabia is in 159th place, out of 167 countries. You probably read, how the Saudi Prince killed a journalist in their embassy in Istanbul. He was watching through a live stream during his guys dismembering the journalist alive. I guess there is no need to mention how hard to be a woman in Saudi Arabia. It is the same for Russia. You can’t criticize the person who is in charge. You probably know that he hates LGBTQ people. So we are funding those authoritarian governments by buying their cheap oil so we can enjoy our comfortable ride to work. We do this even we have many alternatives.
Some people like to grab a cup of coffee before going to work. Sometimes they prepare their coffee with their fancy tools. Similar to all the things that I’ve mentioned before, if something is cheap, in this case, 2,5€ per cup of coffee, there is a sad story behind it. Coffee has a story that includes child labor and environmental impact. When you buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks, first of all, you are creating waste by using the one usage cup. Then, the coffee that you drink comes from an African country. Since the countries which sell coffee beans are extremely poor and we also don’t want to pay a lot for a cup of coffee, people in those countries have to work a lot. Sometimes they have to force their children to work on the fields like in Guatemala so they can earn enough money to survive. They do this just for us so we can enjoy a hot cup of coffee before starting to work.
Your Purchasing Decision
There are a lot of topics like I’ve mentioned above that appear with capitalism. From our perspective, we can just say this is how capitalism works and we can’t change it. We should just enjoy the coffee that we drink to wake up, enjoy our comfortable drive to work in our car, enjoy the meat that we eat during lunch, enjoy the snacks and the banana that we eat after lunch. Most importantly, we should enjoy all of those things by only paying very little.
I don’t believe that there is a system that you can’t change. That’s the reason why I am writing this blog post. I am not trying to criticize people who drink coffee or eat meat. I am writing this because instead of just enjoying the current state of capitalism, I believe that we can change it in a good way. In the end, it is all about our purchasing decisions. Before buying things which harm animals or the environment or the people or the children and so on, we can always try to find alternative products. We can make research before buying something. We can become a conscious consumer. Once we make our buying decisions thoughtfully, all the companies which have bad practices will need to change. Otherwise, they will be gone.
I always say this: your purchasing decision is more important than your voting decision in an election. You vote every 4 or 5 years but you buy something every day. You can’t directly change something with your vote but with your purchasing decision, you can. Once you stop buying snacks that use unsustainable palm oil, that company has to change. They can’t keep selling you the same product as always. It is the same for everything that you purchase. You can change something in this brutal capitalist world by starting with the things that you buy.