Everyone Doing Something

April 23, 2020
There is a fine line between patience and stagnation.
When should you do something?
When should you do nothing?
Should there be a balance of both?
As Edmund Burke says, “nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

My last blog post was about the importance of not allowing a limitation of means to prevent you from actively contributing to issues you are passionate about. The Global Climate Action Strike that occurred on September 20th of last year is a wonderful catalyst for this conversation, especially in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Haven’t heard of it?

What on earth does this have to do with community engagement or higher education?

The Global Climate Action Strike was inspired and planned by global youth including 16-year old Swede, Greta Thunberg. The estimated number of global participants ranged from 4-7 million individuals in well over 100 countries on almost every continent. The purpose and goal of this protest was to disrupt normal society in a way that would force world leaders, politicians, and law-makers to listen and re-prioritize the issue of climate change.

Let us back up.

Not everyone is aware of what the disastrous effects of global climate change can be, why the Climate Action Strike took place, or even how climate change can affect you and your family. We can help fix that with good old Bill Nye:

After watching that, do you feel hopeless or determined? People all around the world who took to the streets, including thousands of college and university students, chose to apply their determination toward building a brighter future. The decision of whether to look at this issue in an optimistic or pessimistic light is a defining and active choice. We are still learning about both the short-term and long-term effects of global climate change. According to the NOAA and WWF , current effects include:

  1. Rising sea levels which can affect fish populations and threaten communities at lower altitudes
  2. Erratic and harmful storm systems that increase quantity and severity of natural disasters
  3. Increasingly sporadic rainfall that can cause disproportionate drought in some areas and harmful amounts of rainfall in others What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife | Common Dreams Views
  4. Change of ranges and migration patterns of wildlife species that can alter food-chains and ecosystems
  5. Some ticks, mosquitoes, and crop and plant pests to thrive in new areas because of changing ranges, populations, and migration patterns of predatory species, as well as changing yearly temperature patterns
  6. Increasingly varied weather patterns lead to an increase in issues with the growing season and food production. This can significantly increase food costs to consumers.
  7. Increased sediment and contaminant concentrations after heavy downpours can lower water quality and stress groundwater supply
  8. A lot more expensive living for many individuals. (Read more from Columbia.edu)

That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

After seeing this list, it is hard to argue that the effects of climate change are miniscule or far in the future. The effects of climate change are going to take a vast majority of the population with a variety of techniques and initiatives in order to make any headway. It is going to take a lot more than hundreds of activists or the nature club at your local college or university. It is not just going to take changing laws. It is not just going to take switching from single-use plastic to reusable or an increase in corporate responsibility.

Have you joined the environment preservation/climate action discussion in any way, like the people did when they attended the strike? Speaking out is just the first step. It alone won’t solve.

It is not too late to participate in your own way, in your everyday life or on your campus. With over seven billion people on this planet, you don’t all have to be on the news in the middle of protests or a candidate for an episode of Extreme Cheapskates or Tiny House Nation. If you want to do more than the basics, please go right ahead, but you don’t need to flip your life upside down. It alone won’t solve. Do you know what it will take? It will take everyone doing something. This mantra can be applied to every single social issue in existence, not just to the social issue of redeeming the health of the planet. Higher education institutions especially have the capacity to affect every community in the nation through the students they educate by encouraging them to adopt that mantra; that’s a good starting point.

How does the number two sound to you? Small? Reasonable? Two lifestyle changes being made by every single individual on this planet would make a ripple of change that would literally save the world! Here are some ideas below:

 

  • Write letters to your state policymakers to push for more environmentally-conscious legislation. This goes for the community/town, state, and national levels. Maybe choose one from each!
  • Write to any local corporations that you shop at or that have a physical presence in your community. Research a leader of that corporation to write to, and let them know how environmentally-conscious changes will actually help their business!
  • Unplug electronics when you’re not using them
  • Carpool when possible. Live in town? Walk!
  • The Climate Action Strike was not the first and surely will not be the last. Look up when the next one will be near you and participate!
  • Recycling is not enough and manufacturing sends a lot of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Focus on reducing and reusing. Find at least two items in your house that you can switch from disposable to reusable. They now make reusable water bottles, sandwich bags, straws, produce bags, feminine products, Q-tips, tree-free toilet paper, and don’t forget those reusable shopping bags that sit in the trunk of your car (at least mine always used to)
    Reusable Products for the Home - Sunset Magazine
  • Have old torn up towels or clothing? Cut them into squares and keep a rag bin under your kitchen sink to use for spills and cleaning the house rather than paper towels. Just wash and reuse! Have old curtains or cute pieces of fabric? Roll up and use as dinner napkins rather than paper towels!
  • Not comfortable with public speaking? Tell a friend, coworker, or classmate about your passion and encourage them to make a single change in their own lives. Encourage them to follow through. See them using cling wrap? Buy them reusable bowl covers as a Christmas gift!
  • Buy local. From everyday groceries to furniture to Christmas gifts. While Amazon is convenient, challenge yourself to get creative with your Christmas shopping. It’s doable even with a tight budget and sometimes quality (and sustainable) is better than quantity
  • Thrift Shop! It saves you money, and the production and transportation energy that it took to create that item (and in turn, carbon emissions) can yield double the use value
  • Buy used cars. “There’s much to be said, from many environmental vantage points, about postponing replacement purchases of anything, not just cars, to keep what’s already made out of the waste stream and to delay the additional environmental costs of making something new.” (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-used-cars-are-more-ecofriendly/)
  • Get outside and plant trees! Join a local conservation group to plant erosion- and YouTube stars raise over $6m to plant trees around the world ...pollution-controlling plants along streams and riverbanks!
  • Does your house get tons of sun? There are many cost-sharing programs and tax credits that help you obtain a wall of solar panels on your roof!
  • Research companies that are implementing policies and technological means for carbon reduction and removal and back them with your support. Write to other companies to spread ideas! (https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/03/taking-greenhouse-gases-sky-7-things-know-about-carbon-removal)
  • Begin a club of group at your school or place of work to facilitate and encourage policy and lifestyle changes

We each have a purpose and we each have our unique abilities and spheres of influence. Are you a Greta Thunberg? A Jane Goodall? An Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Or maybe even a Boyan Slat? (Read more about this amazing boy here: https://www.boyanslat.com/) Whether you are a middle school student, college student, stay-at-home Mom, retiree, company CEO, truck driver, or entrepreneur – we can all play our part in creating positive change in the global climate and actively maintain the earth for generations to come. It’s not a fad, it’s our future.

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