In the wake of the catastrophic UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report, people have – wisely – begun to freak out about the fate of the planet.
If you somehow missed it, here’s the TL;DR of it:
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. (source)
Around the issue, it seems that people have drawn a line, and you’re either a “small steps matter!” optimist or “sweeping reforms are the only way to save the planet” pessimist.
(Me? Individual actions aren’t enough and relentless positivity isn’t a force that can change the world. But with the right mindset, daily sustainable actions are a good way to keep the focus on the harder, systemic changes that will actually make a substantive difference.)
I’m not here to tell you how to be a good eco-activist, but simple fact is refusing a straw or bringing your own mug daily just isn’t enough.
Frustrated by that? Good!
Channel that into productivity!
Particularly if you’re a white person in a ‘western’ country who enjoys the privilege of over-consumption without having to directly face the consequences. Here are just a few actions I think are good jumping-off points into the bigger, more meaningful fight:
Read, read, and then read some more. Learn about how interconnected everything is – like how the government subsidizes dirty energy, banks invest in environment-destroying projects, and factory farms are a critical part of our CO2 problem. Vox has a ton of great content – this article on ways to accelerate progress against climate change was a great read.
Here are a few other books I often recommend to people:
- Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet by Kendra Pierre-Louis
- Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
- Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken
Use the knowledge and skills you have related to climate change (whether it be zero waste DIYs, community organizing, gardening, lobbying, etc.) and share them with your community. As I mentioned above, individual actions are not enough to reduce our carbon emissions – but they can be a powerful way of engaging people and drawing them into the resistance.
Here’s more information on how to host workshops in your community.
Donate your extra cash
People are already doing the work and have most of the answers, just not at the critical mass we need. Put your money towards helping programs already in-place with the brain power and plan to solve these huge issues. There are tons of organizations doing great things so do your research on what issues you’d like to support personally. That being said, I recommend:
- Earth Justice (because the Earth needs a good lawyer)
- Planned Parenthood (because family planning and health is critical to saving the planet)
- Sierra Club (because the Earth is our only home)
Join the local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Become part of a larger initiative to enact sensible climate change solutions like carbon fees. I chose the Citizens’ Climate Lobby specifically because they’re doing great work on carbon reduction and they have tons of local chapters worldwide; feel free to choose another eco-organization that you vibe with and donate your time.
Support clean energy subsidies
Look for and invest time/money into groups or legislative action looking to subsidize clean energy and end subsidies for dirty energy. A 2017 report showed “U.S. taxpayers continue to foot the bill for more than $20 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year”. Our tax dollars are not going where they’re needed most or where our priorities as a country should lie. Let’s change that.
Start a local zero waste group
Refusing straws and bringing your own bags to the store will not save the planet. Still, that doesn’t mean the individual actions of zero waste are meaningless. Just put them to better use by amplifying those individual actions. Here’s how to start a local zero waste group. Teach the simple ways people can reduce waste but don’t forget to look far beyond the Mason jar when talking about waste!
Now is not the time to say “I’m not an activist or organizer” – none of us have the luxury of looking the other way.
Take the Cool Food Pledge
Connected to the food industry? Look into World Resources Institute Cool Food Pledge which provides guidance to help restaurants serve more climate-friendly food while meeting other dining-related targets. They have actual, valuable resources to help those serving food make effective and sustainable changes.
End food waste
On the topic of food waste, engage with you local leaders (government, schools, large businesses) and send them these Further With Food resources. The organization offers both online and in-person events on food loss and waste prevention. The US is unlikely to enact any sweeping food waste reform, so working locally is the most logical place to start.