Climate change is an overwhelming subject. With something so far reaching and integral to our way of life, it’s easy to become inundated with negativity in the environmental realm. Luckily, many progressive environmental groups are budding and proliferating around the country, as climate change becomes a more popular talking point in the media. We advocates may sometimes feel lost as to how we can be more effective and widen the ripple of our actions; here are some of my personal tips to more effectively harness your inner power and empower others with your advocacy.
1. Research the depth of the issue.
One of the most important things you can do for the green movement is educate yourself. There is so much to know about climate change, but don’t feel overwhelmed! You can start small with reading the IPCC’s 1.5 Special Report – Summary for Policy Makers. It’s short, readable, and captures the importance of necessary change to adhere to global climate commitments.
Still thirsty for more information? A wealth of resources are available on the internet: readings, videos, podcasts, you name it. But perhaps your biggest resource is Clark University. You can learn so much from the professors and students that study in the International Development, Community, and Environment Department. You also can meet other climate advocates and start conversations at events both on and off campus. We have so much to learn from one another — you don’t have to go it alone!
One thing to be mindful of, though, is where you are getting your information. Research the source; think about what their interests are and whether they have an agenda. Being mindful of where your information is coming from is imperative to framing your advocacy knowledgeably, clearly, and fairly.2. Understand the limitations of individual action.
You recycle, compost, only buy sustainable products, shut off the lights when you leave a room, and own an electric car. You closely monitor your carbon footprint and do your best to be the best you can be — but is that enough? Of course, individual action is by no means pointless. We can make meaningful waves of change together, especially on the smaller scale. However, it’s important to realize that the effects of climate change have been, and continue to be, driven by corporations and power structures — and that individual action can only go so far. Understanding toxic power systems, and dismantling them, is necessary to save the Earth.
One other thing to understand is that individual action is sometimes not intersectionally accessible. What does that mean? It means not everyone has the same means or abilities to take many of the actions we consider to be “green.” Climate action sometimes demands up-front capital — be it social, financial, or otherwise. Understanding that these may present considerable barriers can help you make your advocacy stronger by adapting it to be more inclusive and diverse.
3. Use your imagination.
Perhaps one of the most underrated things we can do as climate advocates is to use our imagination. We learn about the facts, then worry about the future and our limitations — the burden of this information carries a considerable weight on our psyches. We must remember to stop and take a moment to imagine our futures without limitations.
Take a few moments and let your imagination spread its wings: daydream and write about or sketch what an ideal would be like, look like, and feel like. Don’t worry about what’s possible or what wouldn’t make sense. This may seem cheesy, but imagining a better world has driven many powerful movements. We cannot be limited to picturing the future based solely on what we have been told is possible. There is great power in the human imagination. Harness it.
4. Make your voice heard.
If you’re like me, you probably vent about climate change and politics on social media. I get a few likes, feel validated for a bit. But am I really making change this way? And with whom? I constantly remind myself to push myself out of my comfort zone and use my voice — yes, my actual voice! The way we perceive one another verbally is very different than how we read things. And while it’s many times easier to organize your thoughts in writing, our speech holds weight in a way that can’t be matched with reading words on a screen.
Talk to people: friends, family, classmates, coworkers, teachers. Don’t be afraid to spark up a conversation.
Seventy percent* of people accept climate change as real. Engaging with deniers may seem tempting, but it is more productive to have conversations with those who know about climate change but don’t know what to do. Having these discussions is key to normalizing the subject and acting on it together.
Feeling extra motivated? Call your representatives. It’s easier than you think. If you are at a loss for words, you’ll find many templates online. But phone calls and conversations go a lot farther than online petitions and social media posts, so put climate change on their radar with your voice. If not you, who? And if not now, when?
5. Take mindfulness breaks.
Climate change is an incredibly heavy subject. It’s very easy to get caught up in the future — what is to come, what is at stake. You might ponder policies, listen to politicians, read media accounts, conduct your own research…. There comes a point where we are in danger of becoming desensitized to the negativity, and many become disengaged. I’m here to suggest that mindfulness breaks are a fun and important way to maintain your sanity amid all of the disappointing news we are faced with day after day. I’ve learned that taking a walk, meandering through the woods, or even sitting outside and feeling the sun on my skin are grounding ways to pause, connect with the Earth, and remember why we are doing this. Breaks like this are good for our mental health, and good for the movement. We mustn’t forget to take care of ourselves while we lead the charge as environmental advocates.
Kortni Wroten is a current student in the dual degree MBA/M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy program at Clark University. She is a Sustainability Hub Ambassador at National Grid. Kortni also represented Clark as the university's first-ever student delegate at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). Read more about her experiences here.
* "Americans Who Accept Climate Change Outnumber Those Who Don’T 5 To 1." Yale E360. N.p., 2018. Web. 19 Mar. 2019.