Determining effective action to fight climate change can be bewildering.
3 steps to help direct your energy where it can have the most impact
- Developing a Climate Action Mindset
- Individual Consumer Actions
- Solidarity Actions
Developing a Climate Action Mindset
The climate catastrophe is so immense we will need to adjust our mindset (climate action mindset) to be effective in fighting for the planet.
Embrace the Car Crash Story of Climate Change
Our stories determine how we act. The Car Crash story of climate change confronts the brutal facts (we will hit the other car), and inspires us to slam on the brakes with all our strength and creativity.
Recognize and Resist Corporate Narratives & Propaganda
Corporate media promote an overarching narrative that benefits the powers that be and they routinely ignore news that doesn’t fit their political and economic agendas. If you consume corporate media, supplement it with news and analysis that do not rely upon corporate funding. Here are some sources of solid information on climate change.
A common narrative is that all of us are at fault for climate change, because of our individual lifestyles. Reject this narrative. Individual citizens are not responsible for the planet being in peril. Climate change is the fault of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers in business and government. Period. It is these entities that we have to defeat, and it is up to us to defeat them.
Beware Smearing of Climate Activists & Politicians
Any effective climate activist or politician is subject to smearing. Be skeptical of charges against climate activists and politicians that originate from the fossil fuel industry. Many of them will be irrelevant, trivial or untrue.
A particular criticism leveled at climate change warriors is hypocrisy. Anyone who dares to fight climate change must be as pure as the driven snow: 100% vegan, drive only electric vehicles, have solar on your house, never use an airplane for travel. Bill McKibben, in his 2013 memoir, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, responds convincingly: “…there’s something remarkably ironic about me flying around the world to build a climate movement. I do it because I think the math works: if we stop Keystone (a pipeline), that’s nine hundred thousand barrels a day for the fifty-year life of the pipeline.”
Remember that those leveling criticisms at climate activists and politicians themselves reek of hypocrisy. Fossil fuel executives don’t care about Bill McKibben’s carbon footprint. They want to silence him, sully his reputation and reduce his effectiveness. Expect this for any activist or politician that becomes effective in fighting climate change.
Develop a Tolerance, If Not a Passion, for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience
People who engage in civil disobedience typically have been members of an oppressed group who claimed a higher authority than the law they were protesting (e.g., Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.). But the climate crisis is oppressing us all. Everything we care about is at risk.
Many of us have been raised to respect authority and we may be very uncomfortable with the idea of breaking laws, even ones that are clearly immoral. But powerful people often structure laws and regulations to give themselves an edge over people who are not part of the elite.
And if we don’t actually engage in civil disobedience, we can appreciate the contributions of those who do. Recently, 900 “Scientists For Extinction Rebellion” issued a statement in support of civil disobedience:
“We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and nonviolent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law.”
This is going to get chaotic and we need to develop a tolerance if not a passion for civil resistance.
Be Realistic About Voting By Itself as a Solution to Climate Change
Many climate presentations frustratingly culminate with a single recommended action: “VOTE!” But, all too often voters are given a limited choice of two candidates who both take fossil fuel money. Voting is important as a part of a broad effort but it is not, by itself, going to fix our problems. THIS! has some ideas about how to change this so our votes will matter. Stay tuned.
Individual Consumer Actions
Our corporate controlled economic and media systems encourage us to see ourselves as consumers because individual consumer actions do not threaten our society’s power structure. They are also not sufficient to deal with the climate crisis — we need mass installation of solar, for example, not just isolated individuals installing solar in their homes.
Nonetheless, let’s take the individual actions we can to deprive the fossil fuel industry of our money. Every bit of fossil fuel not burned is a good thing. And the feeling of integrity we gain from acting gives us positive energy to do the more effective Solidarity Actions.
Become Vegan or More Vegan-like (Eat Less Meat and Dairy)
Worldwide beef production is a big force driving climate change including the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Raising beef accounts for 6% of total global emissions so reduced demand for beef is a good thing. Cook and order plant-based meals: order an “Impossible Whopper” at Burger King, or a Beyond Burger at Carl’s Jr., which many people can’t distinguish from meat burgers. Ask your favorite restaurants to carry plant-based dishes.
Reduce Food Waste
About 1/3 of food produced for human consumption is wasted. Uneaten food tends to end up in landfills where it produces methane, a gas that traps 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide when it leaks (which it does often). Prepare and order smaller portions. People tend to eat what is on their plates, so let’s put less on them. Bring reusable containers to take uneaten food home rather than in the restaurants’ one-time-use containers.
Reduce Air Travel
Thissource of carbon emissions has dramatically increased in recent years. When you do fly, try to combine multiple objectives for a trip (e.g., work objectives, vacation, visit with relatives and friends, meeting with climate change fighters in the area, etc.)
Move to Electric Vehicles (EVs)
If able, make your next vehicle an electric one, via purchase or lease. Leasing may be an especially good approach with EVs, as the range between recharges is improving. If there is a big leap forward in battery technology you don’t want to be left behind.
Move to Solar Energy and Electricity
If you are able, take advantage of sunshine. Some solar companies install solar with minimal upfront cash required.
Reduce Use of Paper Towels
Shake your hands to air-dry them rather than using paper towels in public restrooms. Carry a handkerchief to finish drying your hands as many Japanese citizens do.
Solidarity Actions: Help Win Political Power for the Planet
Solidarity is the true super power. Our society encourages us to see ourselves as individuals but our effectiveness depends on our joining with others to fight for our planet. Solidarity actions are done in concert with other people and provide the greatest leverage.
Join a THIS! Cohort to Move Your Money from Climate-Bad Banks
If most of the fossil fuels that are in the ground don’t stay in the ground, our chances of success are dismal. Financing is the fossil fuel industry’s “oxygen” and its Achilles heel. The fossil fuel industry can’t continue to destroy the planet without financing and banks are more likely to accede to pressure from consumers.
THIS! has found that many people want to move their money but haven’t because it can be complicated and frustrating. Our Move-Your-Money Cohorts provide encouragement and technical assistance to help you. THIS! believes this is one of the most effective actions we can take to fight climate change, which is why it’s our first initiative.
Take Collective Action
Asked what the best thing an individual can do for the climate, Bill McKibben said, “Stop being an individual!” We have to see ourselves as part of a great movement, one of many, many people mobilizing to fight the climate crisis.
Join and Support Organizations Fighting Climate Change
Some great organizations are doing important work. Give them money to help them succeed and to receive their newsletters to stay informed. If you are on social media, promote them there.
Show up for Demonstrations and Campaigns
Every time there is a climate demonstration, strike, march or campaign, recognize that many, many people worked hard to make that action possible. When you can, vote with your body by attending actions and joining campaigns to support the people who work behind the scenes to organize them.
Participate in Divestment Campaigns and Boycotts
Work to defund fossil fuel companies and the financial and insurance industries that make their harmful business possible. Universities, pension funds, unions, religious organizations and others are beginning to divest from the fossil fuel industry (like the successful divestment campaign that helped bring down the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa). If you are connected to a college or university community (student, alumnus, donor, faculty or staff member) make known your desire to have it divest from fossil fuel companies, and, if there is a divestment campaign, support it!
Engage Thoughtfully in Politics
Politicians can talk a good game on climate but not walk the talk. For the planet’s sake, the most crucial distinction among politicians is whether they take fossil fuel money or not. If so, they will likely value and obey their “money constituency” more than their voter constituency but they will try to hide it. If politicians take fossil fuel industry money, you can’t trust them on the climate. Be aware that both Republicans and corporate Democrats are awash in fossil fuel money. Check on your representatives.
Help Make it Political Poison for any Politician to Take Money from the Fossil Fuel Industry
Commit to NEVER support any politician at any level who takes money from the fossil fuel industry. Write, call and/or e-mail to ask every politician who represents you (or wants to) whether he or she takes money from the fossil fuel industry, and whether he or she will pledge to not do so. If they are not willing to pledge to do this, let them know that you will not support them going forward either with donations or with votes. Stay tuned for an initiative from THIS! to turn up the heat on fossil-fuel funded politicians.
Donate to Politicians Who Refuse Fossil Fuel Money
Politicians who refuse to take fossil fuel money need support from everyday people like you and me. Don’t restrict your donations to politicians who represent you geographically. The fossil fuel industry backs candidates who do its bidding across the U.S. and we need to think nationally as well. It is morale building for politicians to receive contributions from citizens outside their districts.
Talk Climate With People in Your Networks
Noting that ¾ of all Americans only hear someone talk about climate change once or twice a year, Climate Scientist Katherine Hayhoe said, “If we don’t talk about something we can’t care about it. And if we don’t care about it, we won’t act. So action begins with conversation.”
You can have effective climate conversations with people in your networks including family, friends, work colleagues, members of your religious community, etc. You don’t have to be an expert, you’re not trying to convert people. The goal is to get people talking about the climate crisis and help move it into the center of the Overton Window
Here’s How You Can Begin
1. Express a concern about climate change.
Here are some examples but there are many to choose from
- “I heard that climate change is likely to lead to massive crop failures and resulting shortages of food. Is climate change something that you are concerned about?”
- “I read that 250 billion tons of Arctic ice melted last summer and sea levels are rising with cities like Miami, Houston, New York City and others threated. Does that make you nervous?”
2. Listen and show your conversation partner you are listening.
Make eye contact, nod your head occasionally, make listening noises, “Hmmm.” “I see.” “uh-huh.”
3. Don’t worry about converting people.
Getting them talking about the climate crisis is enough. Also, it will get harder and harder for climate deniers to persist as Mother Nature increasingly encroaches on the lives of all of us.
4. Avoid lecturing.
If you have the opportunity to contribute a thought without turning the conversation into a lecture by you, do so. “All those people living in coastal cities are going to have to move somewhere which is going to be really expensive and disruptive…”
5. Share information.
You can later share articles about the climate crisis on a drip-drip-drip basis to get people used to the fact that bad times are coming; and, in fact, are already here for so many.
THIS! training on “Becoming a Climate Conversationalist” is coming soon. Stay tuned.
Join and Strengthen Communities
Bad times are coming and we will be better off if we are part of a thriving community that will support its members. As floods, fires and storms occur in increasing numbers bringing increasing damage, local governments may be overwhelmed with so many people to help at once. A church, synagogue, mosque, temple or sangha can be a nurturing community for spiritual individuals.