There have been a lot of super-apocalyptic articles coming out recently that would lead us to believe that the climate-change-induced end is nigh. Should we be worried? Probably – but as the saying goes “Ain’t nobody got time for that”! Fair enough. Maybe you don’t feel confident in your knowledge. Maybe you don’t know where to begin. Buying a Hummer, dining on steak and generally going out in a blaze of nihilistic carbon-powered glory seems rather unproductive, and you’re too busy for an apocalypse-induced nervous breakdown. So, how does the average person with average concerns find the middle road?
Well, I’m here to say, “Not to Worry”! You don’t need to be an expert, make big sacrifices or go join a doomsday cult. There are plenty of folks passionately working on climate change issues and even small actions on your part can help them get on with the big work. Being supportive in small ways means a lot, and knowing you have their back helps keep them going. Here is a list of ten things everyday folks can do to help us to a brighter climate future.
- Drive less often
The transport sector is the largest contributor to climate change. Luckily, leaving the car at home every now and then and opting to walk, bike or bus to an event or even better, as your daily commute can provide great exercise, family bonding time and generally make you happier and healthier while cutting down on CO2 pollution.
- Use a little less energy by getting into better habits
Knock a couple of degrees off the thermostat. Swap out incandescent bulbs for LED’s. Turn the lights off when you leave the room. Use less hot water. There are online energy audit tools that will save you money while saving the planet – so it’s a win-win!
- Eat less meat, and buy local
I’m not saying go vegetarian (good for you if you do) but chicken and fish have *** the carbon footprint of beef or pork. Visit your local farmer’s market and when you go to the grocery store, if you see the manager, tell her you want to see more local produce in season.
- Grow a garden
The ultimate form of buying local! Plus, diverse plants and productive soils pull CO2 out of the air at a higher rate than turf lawns do. Bonus points if you find a marginal green space and turn it into a food-producing community garden!
- Tell politicians you are concerned – especially municipal politicians
You don’t need to be the local expert. In fact, it helps if you’re not! When an environmental activist or policy wonk corners a politician, it’s easy to brush it off as a marginal group with unrealistic demands. When regular ol’ registered voters start complaining, that’s when politicians take notice! Plus, if they want to implement a carbon tax, please… let’s all agree there is no long-term gain without short-term pain. That is, assuming the proposed measure is equitably designed. Carbon taxes have been proven to work, and properly implemented, carbon taxes have yet to destroy any economy.
- Look for ways to increase biodiversity in your community
Do you have trees, parks, urban streams and woodlots in your community? How healthy are they? Do they connect to other natural zones? Natural features sequester carbon. They offset heat and mitigate flooding. Increased biodiversity protects us from urban pests. Look for local projects you could get involved in. Put together a group and find marginal areas to re-wild!
- Get kids active in nature
Kids these days and their electronics… There have been many studies that demonstrate that children are suffering from a lack of exposure to the natural world. This has been blamed for everything from childhood asthma to anxiety. When children build a connection with nature, they become adults who advocate for it – to develop the leaders of tomorrow we will need!
- Join a local online barter, share or “maker” group
The sharing economy has become a big thing. Some of the big buzzwords in corporate sustainability these days is “decoupling” the economy from ecological exploitation, or the “circular economy”, where the stuff produced gets repurposed so no energy inputs are lost. What better way to do this than regifting, repairing, repurposing or upcycling that old thing you would have tossed? You may not singlehandedly change corporate America, but firms like Patagonia are rewarding clients for doing exactly this – and if the trend increases, more firms will find ways of getting in on it.
- Join a community group that is doing something local about climate change
There are lots of local groups that look for local solutions to climate change – like pushing for bike lanes, reduced traffic, better transportation, more parks and green space, clean up and protect rivers and woodlots. See what’s out there and plug in. I guarantee you’ll meet a lot of interesting folks from all walks of life!
- Educate yourself just a bit – and normalize the conversation
I saved this one for last because I always tell people if you do just ONE THING, do this. So let me be clear – NOBODY EXPECTS YOU TO BE AN EXPERT. And saying you don’t know is fine – chances are others understand just as little, if not less than you. (You made it this far into the article after all – that shows commitment!) There are many, many online resources, experts, sites etc. you can follow to learn, but let’s face it – climatology is really hard! That’s partly why there is so much confusion! So here are three quick, easy points:
– Yes, the climate is changing. Over 98% of all peer-reviewed science is completely on board with that fact.
– Has the climate always changed? Yes, but it’s all about speed and timing. We should be cooling, and we are not. Plus, species are going extinct and the earth is warming at rates exponentially faster than it has in any natural cycle we have been able to scientifically quantify in earth’s geologic history.
– But… it’s cold outside! Learn the difference between weather and climate! Climate change affects all regions differently. Freak storms, heat waves, AND cold snaps are expected to be new regional norms. That includes the oft-cited “Medieval Warming Period” which was regional and does not disprove climate change.
So, here is the bottom line – it’s OK to say “I’m no expert, but I’m really worried”. Tell your friends. Tell your hairdresser, your green-grocer, your personal trainer and your investment portfolio manager. NORMALIZE the conversation! Make the doubters doubt their doubting! That is the ONLY way the activists, policy wonks, and scientists will ever convince the politicians to do something!