Amazon refuses to act on climate change. So we employees are speaking out

We know from labor history that when workers want change, they shouldn’t just wait for company leadership to act.

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SOURCEYes! Magazine

My parents moved to the United States from Bangladesh to try to have a better life and eventually settled in New York, where I was born and raised. During my childhood, I saw myself as just another American. Over time, however, I now see that being the child of Bangladeshi immigrants changes my perspective.

That is especially true on matters surrounding the climate crisis.

I see clearly the inequities of its causes and effects. Despite emitting greenhouse gases at lower rates than richer countries, poorer countries like Bangladesh will bear its worst consequences. Yet, the U.N. now estimates 1 in 3 children in Bangladesh is at risk from cyclones, flooding, or other climate change-related disasters. Millions of people have already had to flee their homes in the countryside as flooding, rising sea levels, and storms have destroyed their villages or taken away their means of survival. They have to uproot their rural lives and travel to cities such as Dhaka, taking whatever jobs they can get to survive. With 20 million people, Dhaka is overpopulated and underresourced. It lacks the ability to build the public transportation, housing, and other infrastructure that climate refugees will need.

The author, Rajit Iftikhar. Photo from Rajit Iftikhar.

We in richer countries tend to turn a blind eye toward suffering in poorer countries. When Cyclone Idai and then Cyclone Kenneth devastated Mozambique in March and April, only people who keep a close eye on the news would heard about both storms. Americans continually underestimate how bad the climate crisis will be for everyone in years to come because it’s easy to ignore those who are facing the crisis right now.

My mom always tells me that as people who now live in a position of privilege, we have a responsibility to speak for the people who aren’t at the table. So often countries like Bangladesh or Mozambique are forgotten and not considered in decisions that impact them. So I think it is my responsibility to speak out to make sure we do all we can to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. It is our emissions that are causing this crisis, so it is our responsibility to take action, wherever we are.

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And for me that happens to be at Amazon.

Unfortunately, Amazon’s leadership doesn’t appear to see it the same way. We lag behind our peers when it comes to cutting emissions. Google and Apple have already reached 100% renewable-powered data centers. DHL has committed to a goal of zero-emissions logistics by 2050. Not only do we have no goals with dates for transitioning to renewable energy, but we even have an Amazon Web Services Oil and Gas initiative to build custom solutions for fossil fuel companies to help them accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction.

Amazon employees know from labor history that when workers want change, they shouldn’t just wait for company leadership to act. In this climate crisis, we don’t have any more time to wait. Workers have the power to elevate issues that they care about if they are willing to join together to make their voices heard.

That is why I joined over 7,700 of my coworkers asking Amazon to produce a comprehensive, company-wide plan to tackle the climate crisis.

The open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos and the board of directors was in support of a proposal by advocacy group Amazon Employees For Climate Justice calling for the corporation to reveal publicly how it is “planning for disruptions posed by climate change, and how Amazon is reducing its company-wide dependence on fossil fuels.” The climate proposal was one of a dozen shareholder proposals Amazon stockholders rejected at the company’s annual shareholder meeting May 24. The employees behind the climate proposal say they plan to introduce it again next year.

As one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, Amazon has the capability to drastically reduce its own emissions. It can lead innovation in sustainable technologies if it would only choose to prioritize that. My hope is that we as employees can come together to make that happen.

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