In March, I had the opportunity to attend 2 different conferences discussing the state of climate change and what to do about it. These conferences were in two different continents with two different objectives, and yet my takeaway was the same – Yes large corporations may be the biggest emitters of carbon, but WE create that demand and WE are the solution.
Wait even me?
And me too!
And what’s the number one thing we can do to address climate change? Talk about it!!!
From what I’ve heard, all of the addiction counseling programs start with ADMITTING you have a problem. So I’ll start first.
For the first time, I figured I’d try a couple carbon emissions calculators to see exactly how much of the problem I was responsible for contributing… And I’ll cut to the chase, my carbon footprint is HUGE – and this was confirmed by multiple sites. I fell right at about 22 tons of equivalent carbon emissions a year, about 20-25% more than the national average and 5 times more than the worldwide average! I feel pretty conscientious about prioritizing the environment in my every day actions… I reject one time use plastics most of the time. I ride my bike to work a few times a week. I don’t buy new things often. I eat meat or seafood only 1-2 times a week, and usually only with friends or family, something I see as a “special occasion”. I’m even completely divesting from Carbon Underground 200, the top 100 coal and oil public companies in the world. But – I can afford to be wasteful. These last two years alone I was probably the worst abuser, flying more times than I could count and spending last winter criss-crossing the US in my 100% gasoline fueled car. Turns out taking a flight is about the worst carbon emitting thing we can do; a cross country flight alone emits 1 metric ton of carbon. Turns out the worst carbon emitters are the richest countries because we can afford to consume A LOT. But we can’t buy another earth… Through our actions and our dollars, we can do everything in our power to help the one we have!
Getting back to the conferences – the number 1 thing we can do is free – Communicate! Talk about the problem, talk about the solutions. And I know just jumping into conversations about the environment and personal actions is not always easy, so to save you the carbon footprint of travelling to your own conferences, I’ll summarize my how-to here (although you should totally join a conference or talk in your area if you get the chance!!).
Why should we communicate? Because we’re not. Every month fewer than 1 in 5 Americans hear someone they know talk about Climate Change. News about climate change is 0.01% of the news on TV, even though its rated as the number one global issue by the UN foundation. We should talk about the environment because the technical solutions we think that we need to cut carbon emissions exist – we just need to spread awareness and acceptance to make change happen. A conversation can easily make you think twice about hopping on the bus versus taking your car alone, or who you vote for on election day. Not only does every behavior count, but it’s contagious both within the rest of your life and for those around you.
What do I talk about?
Talk about whatever is on your mind… if it feels forced, well, you won’t do it (because you won’t enjoy it), and frankly you’ll scare people away. Talk about places you love and can connect over, like your favorite mountain or beach. Your experiences and passions cannot be “wrong” and avoids polarizing the conversation. Talk about things happening in the world that you and your audience care about. Talk about opportunity, like how transitioning to renewable energy creates jobs, increases a country’s economy & decreases emissions all at the same time. Don’t use jargon or make stuff up; it’ll question your credibility and hinder genuine connection. And remember that (as with all conversations) it’s just as important to LISTEN as it is to talk. No one wants a bunch of unsolicited facts in their face, and the input we can garner from each other will result in solutions that best address everyone’s needs.
Beyond communication, you can address climate change with your food choices, purchases, means of transportation, your financial investments, and activism for causes you care about! I’ve got a slew of statistics behind the impacts that each of these decisions can make, indications of both progress and ongoing climate effects around the world, and a ton of other notes from both conferences that spoke to me. Knowledge is power, so learn what you can about what you care about, then spread the word – and we CAN create change. Remember the hole in the ozone layer? Effective communication and policy banned substances responsible for ozone depletion, and we’re on track to have the ozone back to pre-1980 levels by mid-century. Bam. If we have the power to cause this mess we’re in, then we’ve got the power to fix it – together.
If you are concerned about facing objections to talking about the changing climate, you’re not alone. Somehow the environment has become a very bipartisan topic in the US, when in reality it affects every one of us without judgement. Wildfires, floods, droughts and hurricanes have no bias. If you need any further inspiration to create change through communication, watch (and share!) this great video by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Every conversation is one step closer to bridging what divides us; one step closer to ensuring a beautiful future.