Inside: Are you terrified about climate change but feeling utterly confused about what to do? Do you find yourself constantly asking 'what can I do about climate change?' You are not alone and this article is for you!
The image above is a good example of the type of thing I often see on Facebook which makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Obviously, it is meant to be funny but the terrifying nature of climate change makes it sad and alarming too.
It seems to me that we have reached the 'oops' point where people have really started to take climate change seriously. The science is indisputable (sorry Trump – but it is) and climate change has become a huge concern that everyone seems to be talking about.
But what are we all supposed to do about it?
We are drowning in messages about climate change
It seems to me that a lot of the climate change communications that are aimed at getting us all to do something (and there are a lot of them!) use one of two strategies:
a) Bombarding people with statistics about how bad things are to scare us into action
b) Offering advice on individual actions we can take to help 'solve' climate change
This leaves us all a little confused! The scale of the problem is so vast and the number of 'green tips' is so overwhelming. Is there really anything we can do that will make a difference (not to mention fit into our already busy lives)?
This, completely understandable, reaction to what's happening could easily lead many of us to carry on as normal despite being desperate to do something to protect ourselves and our planet from future catastrophe. So what if there was another way to look at it?
The starfish story
When I first came across the starfish story I fell in love with it. The story, originally by Loren Eisley, tells of a man who is walking along a beach one day when he sees a boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. The man goes over to the boy and asks him why he is doing it. The boy replies that if he doesn't throw the starfish back it will die. The man then points out to the boy that there are hundreds of starfish along miles of beach and that he has no chance of making a difference. The boy smiles, picks up another starfish and throws it back into the sea. He then says to the man “I made a difference for that one”.
What I love about this story is that it illustrates perfectly how one person's actions can have a positive effect. But for a problem like climate change, where it seems as though it's all or nothing – either we keep emissions below the safe threshold or we don't – how does this story help?
What if the story doesn't end there?
What if the boy takes out his phone and calls his friends and they come and help? What if one of his friends has a parent who works for a large local company and the company agree to send down some equipment which will make the task easier? What if the local MP then walks by and sees this happening so he goes into work that day and proposes a law which will prevent this from happening in the future?
This is what is needed if we are to tackle a problem as large and as terrifying as climate change.
Individual action will not be enough
It's true – you/I cannot beat climate change. But what if we all start doing something and then we all make it clear to governments and businesses that we want them to do something too. What if this catches on globally and it then becomes unthinkable to not be doing something?
So what does a better future look like?
Perhaps you are worried that some of the changes that are required will lead to personal sacrifice. But I don't think we should assume that all changes will have a negative impact on our lives.
Who can say that they don't want cleaner air?
Who wouldn't like to eat more healthily and feel healthier?
Who doesn't want to give their kids the best possible start in life?
Who can say that they are currently happy to live a wasteful life that relies heavily on convenience products which harm other people, deplete nature and, ultimately, destroy our only home?
I'm not saying there will be no personal sacrifices. The transformational changes that are required will inevitably lead to changes that we would rather not have to make. But I think the positives can outweigh the negatives and I think the consequences of inaction are unthinkable.
So what can I do about climate change? - Do whatever you can!
We currently live in a system which is unsustainable and I don't think it's fair to us as individuals to say that we are responsible for fixing it. But this shouldn't make us reluctant to do anything. It should make us more motivated to act whenever and wherever we possibly can.
Make changes in your personal lives, get involved in community projects and make it known to the government and businesses that you want them to change too.
But don't overanalyse
Unless you are someone who LOVES looking up statistics, and comparing the finer details of how products are made and used, don't take it upon yourself to analyse everything you do from an environmental perspective. Do the things that you know are achievable and worthwhile. Here are a few of the things we are doing at Ecojam:
- Switch to a green energy supplier
- Insulate your home and stop wasting energy
- Evaluate your diet and cut out/reduce meat and dairy
- Buy less stuff
- Sign petitions
- Talk to your friends
- Boycott companies
- Tell companies you are not happy with their unsustainable practices
Yes, the list is seemingly endless and I could go on and on but hopefully you get the point. We are currently stuck in an unsustainable system but we are definitely not powerless. The following quotes both sum things up a lot better than I can so I will end with these thoughts:
"I like to envision the whole world as a jigsaw puzzle … If you look at the whole picture, it is overwhelming and terrifying, but if you work on your little part of the jigsaw and know that people all over the world are working on their little bits, that’s what will give you hope." Jane Goodall
“We won’t be able to do enough to mend everything. But we can make it a darn sight better than it would be if we didn’t do anything at all.” David Attenborough
Thanks for reading and good luck in your quest to do something about climate change!
Written by Eleanor Williamson.