Okay, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking to yourself either “What can I do to help?” or “Holy shit, I’m so scared I think I peed a little.“
Well, if you’ve internalized what you’ve read so far, I won’t sugarcoat it for you: we’re going to see some rough times in the next couple of decades. There are no guarantees and anyone who tells you’ve they’ve got a silver bullet solution just wants your money. The problem is big, the problem is everywhere, and the problem is monstrous. But I tell you now: it’s time to hug the monster.
Put simply: embrace our problems for what they are. We all have days where we feel completely stressed and overwhelmed. We might devour a whole tub of Chunky Monkey or lock ourselves in a closet and have a good cry. But when we’re done grieving for our situation, we stand up, wipe away our tears, and set about tackling our problems. Because at the end of the day we all live our own lives, and no one is going to fix our problems for us. This is hugging the monster.
And take heart! Climate change is eminently solvable, and you will have lots of people to help you tackle this problem. There is enough technology and enough capital to solve this problem right now. The only thing missing is the political will. So where do we find that will?
Here is what I would say: the problem of climate change is enormous, it involves everything from energy to agriculture, politics to economics. To address this problem, we will need war-like levels of mobilization and money. Any war first begins with popular sentiment, a nation’s people working from a common narrative, in defense of a common threat. The best thing you can do right now is to to understand and internalize the threat of climate change, and encourage others to start working from that same narrative.
What kind of cryptic half-answer is that, right? I know that might not be what you want to hear. We all hope for simple solutions to problems…buy something, recycle something, pass a law and be done. But climate change is so much bigger than that. Solving it will mean fundamentally changing our cultural beliefs and by extension our relationship to the world. If that sentence made you scrunch up your face a little bit, think of trying to explain democracy to King Louis XVI. He would’ve looked at you like you were crazy, and stated flatly that the idea was ludicrous and could never happen. But it did happen (much to Louis’ chagrin) and in a relatively short period of time democratic institutions swept away the centuries-old monarchies of France and many other countries. Just look at America’s own cultural shift in the last 150 years, as it moves towards equal rights for African-Americans, women and the LGBT community. So never doubt that humanity can change. Change is what we’re good at. We do it all the time.
If you still feel like that’s too much of a cop out, if you’re still too fired up to settle for a slow organic solution, then good. I confess to being among your ranks. Here are some things you can do right now to combat climate change.
Easy, At-Your Leisure Engagement
- follow on Twitter (@SciencePope)
- Like on Facebook (Science Pope)
- subscribe to the email newsletter (in the sidebar, at the top). No spam and we won’t ever share your address.
Videos to check out
Thought Bubble – Bill McKibben narrates a moving and thought-provoking video about climate change and what it means for the future.
Paul Gilding’s TED talk - A straightforward accounting of the realities in our climate and economic situation.
An Inconvenient Truth – He didn’t invent the internet, but Al Gore did make this movie and has been tirelessly advocating for climate action since his departure from politics. He (and this movie) deserve a lot more respect than they get.
The Age of Stupid - A documentary about climate change with some storytelling elements. It hits at a very personal level, as it includes the accounts of people affected by climate change and the sketchy business practices of fossil fuel companies. (Note: hosted through Hulu, so there are some ads to endure)
More great films of all kinds can be seen for free at: http://www.filmsforaction.org/walloffilms/
Books you can read
The Climate Crisis – Climate change 101, by David Archer and Stephan Rahmstorf.
Eaarth - Bill McKibben paints the contours of the new Earth we are creating as climate change takes hold.
The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding writes about the state of climate change, economics, and the philosophy of the great change that will soon be thrust upon us.
The Limits of Growth: 30 Year Update – Jorgen Randers, Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows.
VOTE - We just finished a hot and heavy election cycle, but something was missing. Climate change wasn’t being discussed. It isn’t an issue on anyone’s radar right now, when it should be the most important issue. I say truthfully that I’d vote for even the most conservative politician right now if he/she had the right policy stance on climate change. Everything else…economic issues, fiscal issues, foreign policy issues, they are all slaves to climate change and each will get worse unless we address the underlying problem. So vote, because every election that passes without action digs us deeper in the hole.
TALK - You don’t need to run around giving speeches, obviously, but you can bring it up at dinner parties, the bar, or just contradict your crazy uncle when he starts railing about the liberal media and Obama’s weather machine. No one is going to become a climate activist overnight, so just let it all simmer in your mind for a while and see how things go.
One low-effort high-return thing you can do is to join a social media team. These are essentially groups of people that get on lists and agree to forward climate information to their social networks. I’m on the 350.org social media team for example, which you can join here.
End fossil fuel subsidies
The big effort right now is centered on government subsidies to America’s fossil fuel companies. America currently gives away $11 billion to these companies every year, companies in an industry that is already the most profitable since money was invented. A big complaint about solar and wind power is that they aren’t yet cost effective enough to compete with coal and oil. Any guesses why that might be?
So you know what? They don’t need our money, and subsidizing businesses that are killing us is the height of stupidity. Get involved now at 350.org
Write to your local congressman and urge them to support Carbon Tax legislation
We don’t let companies dump their waste in rivers/lakes or the ground, so why do we let them pollute the air? To affect the cultural narrative and wake people up, the best thing we can do is to value our energy and goods according to their real costs. A carbon tax does that in one easy step: want to pollute? Good, pay us. This a free market approach that was originally cooked up by conservative lawmakers…any push back on these proposals is motivated either by partisan politics or short-sighted greed.
If you don’t know who your local elected officials are, go here.
Eat less meat
This move makes you healthier, helps the environment, and makes a strong political statement all at the same time. I’m no vegetarian. If I could wear clothes made of bacon and eat myself naked before bed each night I would. But even I can give it up one day a week. Check out Meat Free Mondays.
Oppose drilling projects in the U.S. like the Canadian Tar Sands pipeline or in the Alaskan wildlife refuge.
I fear an influx of cheap oil will be “game over”, as people are lulled people back to complacency until it’s too late.
Right now the best way to get involved is to support the blockade of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Brave men and women are putting themselves on the line down in Texas to stop its construction, and local protests are happening all around the country in solidarity. Check out tarsandsaction.org or @KXLBlockade on Twitter.