Climate Change Should Terrify Us All

Here’s what we can actually do about it.

Jessica Wildfire
Sep 17, 2020 · 7 min read
Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

A lot of us aren’t sleeping well.

Good.

We shouldn’t be. There’s a lot of things deeply wrong with the world, especially over here in America.

Maybe we don’t deserve to keep Netflix and chillin’.

Maybe our anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and mood swings are all trying to tell us something. It’s time for us to evolve. Maybe the only way to reclaim any sense of comfort and peace of mind is to step up and finally start doing our part to address some of these blood-chilling crises. Maybe we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for how smart and kind we are, and make the changes we’ve been putting off.

Let’s stop pretending we’re helpless.

We’re not. When it comes to climate change in particular, there’s plenty we can do. Besides, this isn’t optional anymore.

What I’m about to lay out isn’t extracurricular.

It’s going to be hard.

Most of us aren’t going to be able to change overnight. But if we’ve learned anything from all the self-improvement and personal growth we keep binging on, it’s one thing: You don’t have to make an enormous shift in one day. We can change our lives with the adoption of micro habits. We can make small and moderate improvements.

But we can’t keep putting it off. We have to start making those shifts in our attitudes and mindsets now.

Here’s where you can start:

Stop buying so much plastic.

Most people think plastic just clutters up parks and beaches. Nope, it’s much worse. Producing plastic takes tons of energy. It uses up tons of petroleum. It generates tons of carbon.

Plastic is evil, on lots of levels.

It’s not just about grocery bags. It’s about food packaging. It’s about toys and bubble wrap. It’s about K-pods.

Recycling doesn’t cut it anymore. The only way to slow down and reverse climate change is for individual consumers like us to start buying way less plastic. You have to make it a daily habit.

Every time you buy something, ask yourself:

  • How much plastic does this contain?
  • Do you really need what you’re buying?
  • Can you find a version made with no plastic, or at least less?
  • Can you get it somewhere else, with less packaging?

Slow down your mindless consumption.

We talk about gratitude and minimalism so much these days. It would be nice if we actually practiced that.

Start thinking like this:

The less you buy, the longer the planet gets to live. Every time you make an environmentally responsible decision, you’ll get to enjoy a few more minutes of clean air and drinkable water.

Buy and exchange things used.

Usually, there’s no need to buy anything brand new. If you want something, try Ebay or Craigslist first, or one of a dozen other sites. Ask your friends and coworkers if they’ve got stuff they want to get rid of.

Ask your neighbors.

Offer them your own old stuff.

Almost everyone has electronics, toys, clothes, furniture, and other goods that still work. It’s just lying around.

Parents: You can get 90 percent of your kid’s clothes and toys from consignment sales and social networks.

Pay attention to where you get your clothes.

Keep the clothes you have. Wear them as long as possible. When you need new ones, shop for sustainable materials. Do research on the companies. If it was made in a sweatshop, don’t buy it.

Don’t make exceptions for major brands, no matter how much you love them. Ignore what the influencers are hawking.

Stop comforting yourself with the myth that you can keep buying new clothes and donating what’s out-of-fashion. There’s an enormous surplus of old clothes in the U.S. You know what happens to them? They get cut up into rags. Eventually, they get thrown away.

This is well-documented.

We can’t afford to support a clothing industry that ruins the environment. We can’t continue to constantly inflate our wardrobes and pack our closets with ever new trends from celebrities. We can’t afford to put aesthetics and fashion over people’s homes and lives.

Use things for as long as possible.

We consume way too many new electronics.

A high end computer can last ten years if you actually take care of it. Phones can last almost that long, provided they’re not designed to break down and force you to buy a new one.

You don’t need to buy a new flat screen television just because there’s a special deal on one that’s the size of your living room wall, with a picture quality so high your eyes can’t even appreciate it.

You should be using things you buy until they literally wear out. Laptops. Phones. Cars. Clothes. Everything.

Resist the Amazon-ification of our culture.

You don’t need that kitchen gadget shipped to your house at warp speed. You can wait a week. Every single time you opt for super fast shipping, you’re putting a strain on the environment. You’re also making life that much harder for some exhausted warehouse worker.

The entire problem with our society is that we’ve gotten used to all kinds of perks and privileges that destroy the world.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t want you to think about all that. He wants you to keep consuming. It’s good for him. He’ll make it as easy as possible for you to buy stuff, while releasing smokescreen PR commercials about reducing his company’s carbon footprint.

Resist. Shop locally first. Use companies like Amazon as a last resort. When you order from them, ship it slow.

Start thinking about your travel.

We all have that irritating, super rich friend who flies all over the world. We’ve secretly wanted to be them.

Stop.

You shouldn’t want to travel all over the world. You shouldn’t be earning frequent flier miles. You shouldn’t be driving around aimlessly because it’s relaxing, or helps you think. Going forward, there should be a purpose for every mile we travel in a vehicle powered by fossil fuels. We don’t need all of the conferences, conventions, luxury vacations, and other excuses we’ve been making for ourselves.

Overhaul your diet.

Eating healthy isn’t just about your personal goals anymore. All that packaged food isn’t just terrible for your body.

It’s terrible for the environment.

Packaged food is literally killing our ecosystems. We just haven’t been seeing or breathing the consequences until now. Most of the bags and plastic containers we use for our snacks and takeout sushi and deli sandwiches aren’t recyclable, or they’re very difficult to recycle.

Plastic clamshell containers are the worst.

So start cutting that stuff out of your diet. Buy food with less packaging whenever you can. I mean, do you really need individually wrapped slices of cheese? Do you really need special stringy cheese that slithers out of a can? I don’t think you do. On a broader note, start learning to cook for yourself. Cook meals in bulk if you want. It’ll save you time.

Stop eating so much red meat.

It’s not just about cow farts. Beef farming produces greenhouse gases, and it also makes poor use of land resources. Basically, we could grow more food and feed more people with fewer bovine. All we have to do is reign in our greedy demand for cheeseburgers and steaks.

Rice. Quinoa. Beans. Vegetables. A little bread. Some turkey. It sounds boring — but not if you learn how to cook, and use spices.

Look, I get it.

Everyone loves McDonald’s. How dare I try to impose my communist, semi-vegan lifestyle on hearty Americans.

But consider the alternative: The air quality we’re seeing in California becomes a permanent backdrop to daily life. By 2030, you trade in your face-covering for a hardcore, Walter-White style gas mask. You get to strap that on every single time you leave the house.

Not into that?

Then maybe you should reconsider your fast food habits. And if you’re already there, spread the word.

Plant trees around the world.

The best way to capture carbon from the atmosphere is to plant trees. Lots of trees. Millions of them. Nonprofits exist that do this. You can donate money to them, and they’ll plant trees for you.

They’re easy to find on the Internet.

Put your home on sustainable energy.

Some companies allow you to pay a little extra to offset your energy consumption with wind and solar power. It’s not quite as great as putting solar panels on your roof, but it helps.

Go to your utility company’s website. Poke around. Call them and ask if they offer something like that.

Start educating yourself about sustainability.

Environmental awareness can’t just be a hobby anymore. It has to become a part of our daily living. It has to become a part of our thinking process. That means reading more about the environment.

One article isn’t going to be enough.

We have to start following publications that teach us how to live more sustainably. We have to try what they say.

Reacquaint yourself with inconvenience.

Reversing climate change means giving up a lot of our modern conveniences. It means paying a little more for things because they’re made with fairness and sustainability in mind. It means waiting longer for shipping. It means buying and owning less.

It means eating out less. It means adjusting our diets.

The alternative is clear.

By 2030, we’ll be watching in abject terror as the world is consumed by mega fires, super storms, and tidal waves. We’ll know it’s too late. We won’t be the first species to go instinct, but we could be the first one to know what’s happening, and that we could’ve done something.

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