One of the problems with getting people to take action is the scope of the problem. It’s so big and hard to grasp that people feel more comfortable focusing on, and often arguing about, the details.
My driving won’t make a difference…It’s the Amazon being deforested not my state…It’s only 1°C…There should be community recycling vs. That’s too expensive, businesses can use compostable cups.
And it goes on and on and on. For every problem of climate change there are a thousand solutions and, as we often see in comment threads, ten thousand ways to complain about those solutions.
Another problem is that it’s become enmeshed in personality politics. Which is to say there’s an image out there of people who fight against climate change. A person who’s a radical, a far-left liberal, or someone who composts everything, wears hemp flip-flops and refuses to drive. This caricature of the activist is not fair to the passionate people who devote themselves to the effort; it’s ridiculous, creates a false narrative and needs to be retired.
But more so, it’s beside the point. Helping your kid with their homework doesn’t make you a tutor. Using a Roomba to help clean your house doesn’t make you lazy. And taking easy measures to fight against the existential threat of our species doesn’t make you an activist. It may, however, mean that you recognize a problem and want to do something about it.
So why act now? Simply because we haven’t acted sooner. And I include myself in that statement. I’ve cared deeply about this for a long time, but I too am no activist. I have a career and other interests. I try to recycle, reduce and reuse as much as possible, but I still buy a lot of stuff that ends up in the trash. I don’t drive when I don’t have to, but I still have a 45-minute commute each way. Some things are unavoidable, it doesn’t mean nothing is doable. My goal with each post is to provide ideas of ways you can easily incorporate actions into your life. Some may be long-term behavioral changes, some will be minor acts, and sometimes it’ll just be a different way of thinking about something that may lead to a light bulb moment as it relates to your own life.
We’ll start small and work our way up, training our brains to think differently through daily actions and building successful habits to be more conscientious stewards of our only home.
Much of the news of climate change can be doom and gloom — it can feel overwhelming; too big. And if we feel there’s nothing we as individuals can do then we often choose to ignore it. That’s just how we are. But there are things we can do. Yes, it’s true that industries are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, and you’re just one of billions of cars on the road, so it may not matter if you choose to not drive. But it doesn’t hurt. Also, in the immediate environment of your city, if more people did that wouldn’t you notice a difference in air quality? Haven’t we seen that during the COVID pandemic? Yes, industrial shipping, refrigeration & air conditioning and the pollution by things like industrial factories are magnitudes worse than your automobile, but that doesn’t nullify your contribution. Further, knowing who’s responsible for emissions should also give you an idea of what you can do — pressure corporations to change, petition governments (state and federal) for better standards and to hold polluters accountable for their pollution, etc.
OK, so what does starting small mean? Committing to action will require a rewiring of our brains. But the amazing truth is we can change the wiring of our brains — how we think about things and how we act. We actually do it any time we learn a new skill. Through continual conscious effort our brain’s synapses literally rewire themselves into different patterns. So to effectively enable that rewiring let’s start small. With little practices you can incorporate into your daily routine that, while their overall effect on climate may be negligible, can help get you to a place where thinking differently about the issue is second nature. Practices like turning lights off when you leave a room. Electricity is wasteful, sure, but more so having your kitchen light on when you’re in the living room can really add to your electric bill. Sounds so easy, and it is! But it may be a harder habit to form than you think — my wife can attest to my struggles with it. Stick with it. Getting into that habit (and noticing the difference it makes to your bank account) may help you start to notice wasteful electricity practices elsewhere, like your office. Are lights left on in conference rooms all day, even when they’re not in use? Are the office bathrooms on a motion-sensor timer or just buzzing constantly? Small changes like that can have a snowball effect on your awareness.
So let’s start there, with light switches. Step one. Don’t worry there’s so much more you can do, and more gratifying things too. And we’ll get into those. But it’s a journey of ten thousand steps, and starting any healthy habit takes time.
Also check out the below resources, call that step two. These national organizations have chapters around the country, each with different ways you can get involved. Reach out to them, they may have great ideas of how to have a positive impact in your local environment. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I’m confident you’ll enjoy the journey.
The Sierra Club — the oldest grass roots environmental & conservation organization in the country.
The Sunrise Movement — focused on combating climate change through green job creation by advocating at the local level. Organized and led by young people they also have chapters in just about every state and major city.
The National Resources Defense Council — works to preserve every aspect of earth: people, animals and ecosystems.
Lastly, you can contact your local officials from city government on up and tell them you’d like information on what your community is doing with regards to conservation and climate policy.