Lately, I have started to feel a bit of optimism about climate change.
Has climate science found that global warming is slowing down? No, recent studies show that things look worse. Are emissions levels falling? Not exactly — carbon emissions are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Are the politics getting better? Not really — governments are using COVID as an excuse to be neglectful of the environment.
So why am I hopeful?
A couple of weeks ago I began editing Climate Conscious. Every day I read articles from normal people who are passionate about the environment, and are working toward change. This experience has already changed my perspective about the climate discourse. Before I started editing I knew there were plenty of people who cared about climate change, but it is different to hear from them directly. Seeing folks from across the world who are concerned about the same problem has been inspiring!
My actions, thoughts, and feelings about climate change have been altered by this experience. By experiencing this shift in myself, it also proves that it is possible to create that change in others. Building a conversation and a community around environmentalism is an important ingredient in addressing global warming.
This article is about participating in the climate discourse. It is both a reflection on why I write, and a celebration of those who are already engaged in this conversation. I also address the obstacles that stop some people from contributing to the discourse.
Climate change is a naturally depressing topic. It doesn’t matter how much effort I put into reducing my emissions, it won’t have any impact on the big picture. It is very easy to feel that we are helpless given the current state of the world.
While this anxiety is normal for anyone following climate change, writing about the subject can help you fight against this feeling of powerlessness. Channeling your worries, concerns and fears into creating content is cathartic. That feeling of meaning — of doing something — is empowering! It has helped me to redouble my efforts in my personal life and has inspired me to become more involved in the climate struggle.
Who cares what I think?
I think of this as casting my vote in the discourse. By taking a stand and saying “I want to talk about green house gases! I want to talk about fracking! These things are serious!” I am drawing attention to these issues. It also signals to the people around me that I am concerned about these topics, which will drive more conversations and more awareness.
There are also stories that are unique to each person. We need more content that paints an optimistic view of the future or explores the moral impact of our choices. Fiction, poetry, songs, and art are all important tools for approaching climate change in new and different ways.
Climate action is also about fighting back against climate skepticism and conspiracies. As evidenced in the COVID pandemic, misinformation is a real problem. Combating misinformation will be an important front in the war against climate change. By engaging in the environmental discourse I am equipping myself with the knowledge and resources necessary to counter misinformation, and it gives me more confidence to discuss climate issues in a convincing manner.
Everything has been said already!
No, it hasn’t. Almost everything is a climate story. Every company and product can be analyzed from an environmental perspective. Every government program — local or national — can be discussed in terms of climate impact. There is an infinite number of climate stories, and there aren’t nearly enough climate writers to cover them all.
Even when the topic itself isn’t new, you can always find a different angle. In Climate Conscious, we have had a run of stories recently covering the role of fast fashion in climate change. One story provided a big picture look at the subject, another described the personal experience of getting hooked (and unhooked) on fast fashion, and a third offered advice on how to buy clothes in an environmentally sustainable way. Finding that fresh angle can put a topic in a whole different light.
This is also not just about informing people, but about helping to build habits. Reading one article on a given subject is rarely enough to shift habits, people need repetition. Take the example of eating beef; at this point, a lot of people know that beef is bad for the environment, but plenty of those who know this continue to eat beef. Some people might even try to cut back on beef, but revert to their old habits after a few weeks. When a person like that sees another article covering the connection between beef and climate they will remember to get back to their reduced-beef diet. It isn’t about shaming people, but rather encouraging eco-friendly habits!
I don’t know enough!
No one does. Climate change is a massive topic. To know everything, you would need to master biology, meteorology, climatology, and about another dozen -ologies! Even those who are steeped in the science won’t be able to address all the political and cultural impacts of climate change. We sometimes feel we need permission to write about a topic as important as global warming, but you don’t. Just research a topic as best you can, write it up in a clear and concise manner, and find a place to post it!
Obviously, I do my best to get the science right. I avoid sharing misinformation or conspiracy theories. I listen to feedback from others if you get things wrong. This is an opportunity to learn about new topics and deepen my understanding of old ones. Given the state of the world, it is pretty hard to make a mistake that would make things worse than they already are.
Joining A Movement
It may not feel like anyone is listening to me, but I am joining a chorus of thousands of others working to improve the environmental conditions of society. This gives me opportunities to learn more about environmentalism, to connect with others, and to synergize your efforts in creating a more sustainable world. Unity is one of the most powerful forces for achieving the goals of the climate movement.
Of course, one must remember that writing about climate change is not enough. Everyone still needs to consume ethically, to lobby their government, to demonstrate, and to vote in a way that reflects the importance of the climate crisis. But influencing the conversation is also vital. By engaging with the climate discourse I can bring more people into the movement, building its power so it can direct its energy in a manner that will finally change the course of history.
Leaving a Legacy
To finish, I want to leave you with a question: how do you want to be remembered? When the history of our time is written, climate change will be a much bigger story than the thousands of dramas and scandals that populate the news. By speaking out about the urgency of climate change you mark yourself as someone who worked to solve the great challenge of our time.
I have a son. He is 5-years old right now. Luckily, he is still too young to know about global warming, but one day he is going to learn all about what is happening to the planet. I worry about the world he will grow up in, and it is depressing that I can’t protect him from what is happening. It is impossible to guess how climate change will impact him, but there is no question that millions of kids like him will face challenges like flooding, droughts, and wildfires thanks to extractive capitalism and global warming.
While I cannot fix the world for my son, I want to be able to show him that I tried. My writing is a way to show I cared. I’m under no illusions that my blogging is going to turn the tide of global warming on its own, but at least I can leave a tiny legacy that shows where I stood. This isn’t just for my son, but the billions of other children, both born and unborn, who will inherit the world. I want them to see that their predecessors fought for them.
If we do avoid environmental catastrophe, I want researchers and historians to look back on posts like this and talk about the millions of ordinary people who worked together to save the planet. And if we don’t avoid climate change, and things get really bad, I hope whatever civilization that remains is able to look back on this and say “At least he did what he could.”
How do you want to be remembered?