Climate change is an enormous problem that feels so big that we often get the sense that our individual contributions, good or bad, can’t really make much of a difference.
There’s truth in that. But there’s falsehood too.
This thing is coming at us. That’s for sure. The truth is that there is only one way to stop it and that is for many, many, many of us to act. The truth is one person acting may not solve the problem, but many people not acting is certain to not solve the problem.
If we want to solve the problem we must act. And we must talk about acting so that others will act too. If we’re going to lick this thing, we’ll have to do it together.
That said, what is it that you as a sole individual can do?
Tell Your Politicians
The easiest and most impactful thing you can do by far — easiest by far and also very impactful — is to pick up the phone or write an email.
There’s an old joke about a politician saying “I must follow the people, for I am their leader.” It’s funny because it’s true. Politicians have to say what they’re expected to say or they don’t stay politicians very long. So telling your politicians what you expect them to say is part of your job.
There’s a hierarchy of seriousness that any politician respects when it comes to receiving input from their constituents. Getting a pile of identical emails counts for something but not much. Getting a clearly individually crafted email or letter counts for more. A phone call counts for more. Being stopped in person counts for much more. Be polite.
It doesn’t matter what the orientation of the politician is when it comes to climate change. If they support more action tell them you support that. If they think climate change is a hoax tell them you disagree.
It also doesn’t matter whether the politician is a city councillor or a head of state. Every one of them has a role to play.
It doesn’t even matter if the politician has been elected or is hoping to take over by being elected next time — talk to them both. In the runup to elections they are most available and most agreeable.
You don’t even have to have a deep grasp on the minutia of this or that climate change topic. By expressing yourself to a politician they’ll get the message. And more than likely, by the time you talk to them again you’ll have thought about it more and have something more specific to say to them.
One of the things you might think about saying is how certain the scientists are. The book Because IPCC is dedicated to explaining all about that. Not only scientists, but all the governments of the world too.
Regular Exercise: You don’t march in climate rallies every day. Maybe you never do. You don’t buy an electric car every day or insulate your house or become a vegetarian every day. But you do email people every day. You talk on the phone every day. It isn’t too much of a burden to add one more email or one more phone call once in a while.
Do it. Then your leaders will have something to follow.
Second – Support a Group
You’ve heard about standing on the shoulders of giants. The fact is it’s far more common to be standing on the shoulders of lots and lots of other regular people. People who aren’t giants and whose shoulders are about the same size as ours.
Working together makes us more powerful.
I once attended a presentation where the speaker was describing his volunteer work with a small organization. Suddenly he ripped open his shirt to reveal a superman tee-shirt and said that working with the group gave him superpowers!
But you don’t need to volunteer your time. You can give money. These people are trying the best they can to do the thing that you want to get done too. If you have time, give them time. If you have organizational skills, help them get better organized. If you have money, give them some.
A warning though: being a good volunteer takes dedication. The people in these groups are often working flat out to make a difference. Having a well developed volunteer management approach isn’t always top of their list. Be patient. Get to know who they are and how they’re trying to do what you both want done. Remember, most of these people feel very strongly about their cause. They feel strongly about a lot of things. That’s okay; for this cause, for climate change, that’s fully justified.
Third – Think About Energy
Every time we hop in the car, or flip on a light switch, or click “buy” on a website we’re using energy. Most of the time when we use energy it means that somewhere something is burning to give us that energy. When something is burning it is combining the oxygen from the air with the carbon within the fuel. That produces carbon dioxide; CO2. That’s the main thing causing climate change.
So if you start thinking about what you do, and what it is about what you do that consumes energy, and you figure out which of those things are causing CO2 to be produced, soon you’ll start thinking of ways to produce less.
The importance of reducing your own carbon footprint is many-faceted. If you produce less greenhouse gases that’s good, though in itself it isn’t going to solve the climate crisis. But being an example to your family amplifies your effectiveness. Getting your own house in order prevents you from feeling like a hypocrite, or looking like a hypocrite, when talking about the issue with friends and coworkers.
Doing any or all three of these things will have another result. You’ll get to know more and more about climate change. Talking to politicians might make you think harder about the facts that you want to talk to them about. Supporting a group will likely get you understanding the issues through a new lens. Thinking about your own energy use will get you understanding what changes make a big difference and what changes matter less.
Be Gentle On Yourself
Humans are social animals and most of us want to fit in and get along. It is next to impossible act completely contrary to what most other people are doing. However much you or I might want to live a zero carbon life the society we live in makes it very difficult. Not only because of social pressures, but also because the world is built to use energy in a high carbon way.
That’s why telling politicians is so important. It’s our political leaders who can set the rules by which society operates. Their electors need to give them permission to set those rules in ways that will bring us to a low carbon future.
By doing these things you will as a matter of course inform yourself. You’ll learn more about the various issues of climate change.
But to learn about the absolute authority of the scientific facts of climate change you’ll want to become more familiar with the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. You’ll know you’ve got your facts rock solid with the authority of the IPCC behind you.
For more info on the IPCC — in a digestible form — check out the book Because IPCC.
It’s a short, 33 illustrated pages, an upbeat, entertaining story that explains the history and science of the IPCC. The scene is 100 years in the future when the world has “solved” climate change and people are looking back, inspired by the dedication, rigor and achievements of the scientists of today.
- You can read it in 20 minutes.
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