“Sheesh – they’re talking about climate change! I’m off.”
It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it – the whole topic of climate change…
Who knows what to believe? Who knows how immediate the danger?
And it’s depressing, too.
Can’t we talk about something else?
And yet… nothing in the world is more important.
We need to be depressed. Or, even better, we need to be scared. Scared enough to want to do some something about it.
Scared enough to take climate change personally.
Because there are things we can all do, even as individuals, when it comes to protecting our environment, to stopping or minimising the damage from climate change. There are actions we can begin to take right now.
And none are rocket science.
None are beyond our reach.
What you can do
“Such as?” you ask, a little defensively. “Is there really, as individuals, anything we can do to tackle a potential eco-Armageddon?”
I can answer that one – and the answer is “Yes”.
I’ve got a list.
It goes like this:
👉 Link up
Link up with others. That’s the single most important thing you can do. Get together and agitate. There’s power in numbers. Add yourself to the numbers.
For some of us it’s not so easy. We’re private or shy.
Overcome your reluctance. Talk to other people about the climate, our society, our screwed-up world. Discuss the stuff we can do.
Encourage one another.
Join campaign groups. Get active.
People are more willing to act or change when they see that others are willing to act and change with them. Set that example.
👉 Be positive
This is important, too. Positivity’s a weapon. Hope is a tactic. It’s never too late to put your shoulder to the wheel, to join with others to try and change the path our society’s taken. We are what makes society. We are what can change society.
Hope isn’t irrational.
It’s a strategy.
👉 Have fewer kids
This might be difficult – but we’ve all got to try.
Have one less kid than you would have had, and preferably never have more than two. It’s the biggest reduction in your carbon footprint you can ever make.
There are enough of us on this planet. A growing population won’t help us tackle climate change. In fact, it’ll only make things worse.
👉 Burn nothing
This small commitment can make a BIG difference.
- Don’t use vehicles which burn stuff: cars, motorbikes or planes. Find other ways to travel, and travel less. Walk or cycle, run or ski, paddle or peddle. It’s not just good for the environment – it’s good for your health, too.
- Don’t heat your home with coal or gas or wood, or with electricity from burning coal or gas or wood. Board-up your fireplace. Stop using your wood-burning stove. Get solar panels. Get heat exchangers. Get a windmill. Find green providers for your electricity.
- Don’t have garden or field fires. Don’t burn your rubbish or waste.
- Don’t even smoke. Why pollute your body while you’re trying to stop polluting the world?
👉 Go vegan or neo-vegan
Stop eating meat. Stop drinking milk. You know it’s right. Exploiting and harming animals in the way we do is not only immoral – it endangers us all.
And last, but by no means least:
👉 The 3 ‘R’s: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
Every reduction in how much stuff you use or consume is an act of resistance. Our media propagandises greed and waste. But why have a coke when there’s water in the tap? Why buy new when what you’ve got is good enough? Why buy 2 when you can get by with 1?
Achieve energy Zen: insulate and economise; strive for the calm that comes with turning your back on consumerism.
This is critical. Every act of re-use when you’d otherwise dispose of something and get a replacement is an act of climate activism.
Share what you don’t need. Borrow, don’t buy.
Poorer people have smaller carbon footprints. Live like you’re poorer (if you can), and donate what you save to climate activism or social causes.
Recycling is much, much better than wasting stuff, but it’s still energy expensive.
Reduction is best; Re-use next; if neither are possible: Recycle.
The big things
So these are the big things you can do to make climate change personal:
- Link up with others.
- Be determined and positive.
- Have fewer kids.
- Stop burning stuff, directly or indirectly (no petrol, diesel, coal, wood, gas or electricity sourced from these).
- Go vegan or neo-vegan.
- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle in every sphere of your life.
Everything you do counts.
It counts personally, and it counts morally.
The other stuff
There are of course a thousand other things you can do – perhaps less momentous – but everything contributes in some degree to the big picture. Start to make your own list. Talk your ideas over with friends. Begin to take things into your own hands.
Here’s some stuff you might like to do:
- Speak out against waste, wherever you see it
- Stop using banks, pension providers or share dealers who invest in fossil fuels
- Boycott bars that use outdoor heaters. Boycott shops that heat up exterior doorways. Tell them why.
- Plant stuff: trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables. Use any imaginable space. Guerrilla planting – why not? It’s good for us all…
- Grow food – even if just a little, on a windowsill or in a courtyard
- Get an allotment, and share or barter whatever you grow that you don’t need
- Avoid weed killers, insecticides or artificial fertilisers
- Buy local produce
- Minimise wasted water: turn off showers or taps while you soap or scrub; fix leaks; re-use bathwater in the garden; apply the golden rule: “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down”
- Turn everything completely off when not in use
- Turn off lights, turn down heaters, switch off air conditioners
- Don’t buy fridges or air conditioners which use HFCs
- Don’t visit places that couldn’t exist without carbon-powered air conditioning or heating
- Pets are carbon expensive, so why not share a pet with neighbours and friends?
You’ll get some folk saying that what individuals do doesn’t count. That it won’t make a difference what you do personally. But they’re saying that either because they’re lazy or because they don’t really give a damn.
In fact, everything counts.
It’s each of us, doing stuff, that got us into this mess.
It’s all of us, doing stuff, that can get us out of it.
Let’s start making the good stuff we do count, instead of the bad.
Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives. This article comes from his 2020 book, Short Conversations: During the Plague.
His new book, Short Conversations: During the Storm, comes out this month.
Luke is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal collective and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).