A Personal Guide to the Climate Crisis
Gerald Kutney, PhD, Researcher, Author
What can ordinary folks do about the climate crisis? The climate crisis will not be resolved by complaining about China, Big Oil, global capitalism, the political elites, or something else that we have no control over. While it is essential that governments and corporations take significant and immediate action, we have a major part to play as individuals also. The Dalai Lama has stressed the power of the individual’s participation in climate action:
Every individual has a duty to help guide our global family in the right direction. Prayers and good wishes alone are not enough. We have to assume responsibility. Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives…
The 7 billion human beings on Earth need a sense of universal responsibility as our central motivation to rebalance our relations with the environment. Appreciating the sense of oneness of humanity in the face of the challenge of global warming is the real key to our survival.
What, then, can we do? It’s up to you but do something besides complaining or despairing. There are three types of individual actions:
- ACT – reduce your own GHG footprint (i.e., lower your personal consumption of fossil fuels); reduce waste (a good place to start are the 5Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, repurpose); reduce energy use through simple lifestyle changes (e.g., don’t wait in a crowded drive-through with your engine running to get your morning coffee, eat at home more often and eat less meat, purchase wisely thinking of the carbon impact); green your commute; green your community; become activists and join climate marches; above all, do something – action is always better than words.
- ENGAGE – with friends, relatives, neighbours, co-workers, local politicians, and others about the threat of the climate crisis (if active on social media, join the friends of #ClimateBrawl and challenge the propaganda of climate deniers) – whatever you do, speak up, for silence is an enabler of propaganda.
- VOTE – for candidates that promote strong action against the burning of fossil fuels (and never vote for a climate denier); the climate crisis is especially fought in the minuscule trenches of the voting booth – if you don’t vote, you can’t care.
Act, engage, and vote are what individuals must do to resolve the climate crisis. If we don’t do it, who will? And remember, it is not too late to stop the climate crisis, but we need to act quickly. Whatever we do, it will help.
What have I personally done? I have been actively challenging the propaganda of climate deniers on Twitter, where I engage dozens of climate deniers on a daily basis; joining me have been thousands of others – the “friends of #ClimateBrawl.”
Challenging Twitter propaganda, of course, is but one small way of combatting the climate crisis. In addition, we must promote the message of urgency to public officials to do more to reduce GHG emissions. The most famous of these climate activists is Greta Thunberg, who, on August 20, 2018, started a one-person “School Strike for Climate” outside of the Swedish parliament. Within months, an international youth movement was underway – “Fridays for Futures” – with tens of thousands of members. People were galvanized by her inspiring messages on taking action on the climate crisis; in no time, Ms. Thunberg was being greeted by presidents, prime ministers, and the Pope, and speaking before the UN General Assembly. Only a year after her solitary protest in Stockholm, massive climate strikes took place around the world, as millions of all ages united to demand action on the climate crisis, including where I live in Ottawa, where tens of thousands marched (and the first protest march for my wife and I).
At the end of 2019, Ms. Thunberg was named “Time Person of the Year.”
While Ms. Thunberg is the best-known climate activist, there are many, many more, including:
- Aarev of India who plants trees
- Baerbel of Germany who volunteers at an important climate science site
- Dana of the U.S. who shares important tweets on a daily basis on Twitter about the climate crisis
- John of Australia who fights for action on the climate crisis
- Kaossara of Togo who is fighting Big Oil from leaving waste in Africa
- Leyse of Brazil who is fighting for the Amazon
- Lily of the Netherlands who is fighting against plastic waste
- Marcus of Austria who challenges climate deniers on Twitter on a daily basis
- Monari of Kenya who is fighting to save a local forest
- Raffy of Italy who challenges the propaganda of climate deniers on Twitter
- Robert of the UK & Roman of Germany who are fighting to save the Congo rainforest
- Sophia of Canada who has been recognized for her participation in Fridays for Future and political lobbying activities
- Vanessa of India who leads a campaign to install solar systems in schools
- Yoshiro of Japan and Deniz of Turkey who are Fridays-for-Future activists
The above are all friends of #ClimateBrawl, whom I proudly follow on Twitter. I could go on and on, as there are thousands of such examples of individuals doing something special to stop the climate crisis. You can do it too.
The climate crisis is not just a battle we should fight; it is one we must fight and win, as Al Gore has passionately argued:
The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.
My previous book on the climate crisis – Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol – ended with: “climate change really is the Gordian knot of our times, requiring an Alexandrian solution.” Together, we can all be Alexanders, or Gretas, and help resolve the climate crisis.
You can follow Mr. Kutney on Twitter @GeraldKutney