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Block Friday: What Has Amazon Done To Deserve This?

Block Friday: What Has Amazon Done To Deserve This?


On Black Friday, Extinction Rebellion blocked entrances to 13 Amazon Distribution Centres across the UK and others in Germany, the Netherlands and America. If you missed it, you can read the BBC news report here. 31 climate activists were arrested and face charges for using bamboo structures, lock-ons, other devices and banners to block entrances and bring Amazon centres to a standstill on the busiest day of the year in retail. It was the extreme weather conditions across the country that brought the protests to a conclusion before the planned 48 hours were up.

But why target Amazon? What has Amazon done to deserve this? What is so bad about Amazon?

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion explained, "The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon's exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers' rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday."

That sums it up.

But people are still confused, as a friend of mine expressed "I don't really understand. I thought I was doing the right thing for the environment by buying from Amazon. It saves us all getting in our cars and going to the shops, doesn't it?"

So let's look at Amazon, one of the world's largest companies, a bit more closely. Ethical Consumer magazine has been calling for a boycott of the company since 2012. Here are seven reasons why boycotting Amazon could make a massive difference in changing the world in which we live.

Denying worker's rights: the basic rights of Amazon workers are ignored and anyone who speaks out faces serious retaliation. The company is against trade unions.

Environmental impact: Amazon's business worldwide emits more carbon emissions each year than a country the size of Denmark and that figure is rising every year.

Mountains of waste:  Amazon regularly destroys millions of items of unsold - often new and unused - stock and returned items. We wrote about this here.

Support for fossil fuels: Amazon actively helps fossil fuel companies such as Shell to drill for more oil through its Web Services.

Tax avoidance: Here in the UK, Amazon's tax avoidance costs the UK millions in public funds every year.

Monopolising the online market: while smaller online retailers have been struggling through the pandemic, Amazon has been increasing its market share and Jeff Bezos' staggering personal wealth continues to accumulate. 

Encouraging rampant consumerism: The desire to have a particular item only has to enter your head for you to have it ordered and delivered to you the next day, without even leaving the sofa. There is no effort involved in this kind of shopping and this level of convenience encourages us all to buy far more than we actually need. The environmental impact of this over-consumption is catastrophic.

'But how can I boycott Amazon? What's the alternative?', my friend asks. Amazon has become the go to online retailer for pretty much everything we buy. It's so quick and cheap and reliable and convenient. 

What did we do before Amazon? What did we do before the internet? We got by, didn't we? My colleague Sarah has never shopped on Amazon, not particularly for environmental reasons, but because she's never got into the habit. She doesn't understand this dependence on Amazon that many of us have developed. She's fine without it, she assures me. You can get everything you need elsewhere.

You definitely can. It may take a bit more planning and thought and research to source the items you want (and be aware that Amazon owns many of the small businesses you may believe are alternatives to Amazon so you'll have to do some digging), but taking your time is a good thing, right, and leads to more conscious shopping.

In conclusion, you may not agree with the methods of Extinction Rebellion on Black Friday and you may have been directly affected by the delays in getting your Black Friday purchases, but you can still seriously consider boycotting Amazon out of care and concern for people and planet. It is we, the consumers, who have allowed Amazon to become the company that it is today. Now it's up to us to get the monster back in its box.

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