It's election season and you are excited to contribute your vote for a future you believe in. The excitement is palpable via social media and it gets me excited when I see people actively doing their bit. But what if I told you, you could make a contribution not just on election day, but every other day of your life?
With the civilisation's climate collapse within our foreseeable future, there have been squabbles over what’s the most effective step as an individual. I will keep aside the fact there are forces greater than an individual that plays a key role in controlling climate disaster. In this article, I would like to point out some simple tools we have as citizens to make a difference.
Let us explore the motivations behind all forms of climate action that a regular person like you can be a part of.
1. Wallet Activism
You're giving out a personal stamp of approval to products with high carbon emissions every day. Be mindful of your contribution.
Money is one of the most effective forms of voting systems that exist in our society.
We usually buy things on the basis of what we need and like. But it can also be used to shift demands in an economy. What you spend your money on can show what values you approve of. But for us to find solutions, we need to first educate ourselves on identifying the problem.
Once you understand how you can shift to a circular economy, you can selectively find brands and products that adhere to that system, thereby adding your voice to the increasing demand for change. Not buying the products from large corporations that are contributing to pollution, is a small but effective sign of protest against their practices. A company looks towards sales data & customer feedback as approval from the public to make more of the same.
This may seem like an insignificant form of dissent at first, but with the rise of the social media movements, opinions can be broadcasted to create social pressure. Use the hashtag era to your advantage and voice your opinion as a customer. Ever heard of the phrase “the customer is always right”?
Well, “The loudest customer is definitely right”.
So apart from wallet activism, there's another hidden superpower you hold as a consumer. Below are some quick methods of feedback systems you can use for making your opinion heard if you’re turned off by a company’s polluting unethical practices:
- Feedback forms are a good place to express your disappointment
- Star ratings with comments to be specific with your demands
- Email companies for suggestions on what they can do to change
- Social media tags can be used for greater pressure via public display
- Customer care calls are held in high regard by a company for the effort made by a customer to voice their concern.
2. Political Activism
Political activism, compared to individual action, has a relatively negative appeal. It requires us to organise as a group, take out time from our lives and put in considerable efforts, stand in heat and sun, without any promise of instant gratification. It might take years to build political pressure to make an impact. But if successful, government policies can make a disproportionately massive impact on the overall goal. Much of the natural beauty that is still left today in our world is due to environmental policies and treaties that protected them from exploitation.
First, let’s agree on what our shared goals are. As per the latest IPCC reports, we have 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions (out of which 11 are now left) by more than 80% to be able to prevent catastrophic changes to the climate. 11 years is a short period of time to be able to bring about such a drastic change but the IPCC report has released a clear guideline for policymakers. So it is clear the wave of change involves the cooperation of the government.
The big catch: the government is driven by lobbyists, corporate influence and money from the oil industry. But luckily political participation is on the rise around the world. In a democracy where leaders depend on voters to get elected, you can rely on government action if the public pressure on an issue has been made abundantly clear. This includes mass movements, strikes, excessive media coverage on an issue and so on. And it is our job to make them feel that pressure if they don't rise to the occasion.
Friday’s for future started by Greta Thunberg in Sweden is one of the largest activist movements led by youth today. It is a consistent expression of collective dissatisfaction of a generation, let down by global leaders in terms of climate action.
Petitions are important, depending on how comprehensive and well planned they are. Always read through and sign petitions if you agree with the demands. Click on the below link to sign for a petition by a renowned organization Greenpeace; that demands the forming government to act on key issues concerning India:
3. Individual Lifestyle Changes
Making individual changes is a social challenge in the beginning, fraught with the task of battling the herd mindset, but it gives extremely satisfying personal results if done well.
You can read about several sustainable lifestyle trends growing around the world here.
Individual lifestyle changes and actions are self-driven and enlightening, thus, they have an overall positive appeal to many. They bring us a feeling of guilt-free satisfaction by exempting us from the role we play in environmental destruction. They allow us to be creative with solutions and possibly small business opportunities. And at times, they also bring us admiration. Each individual’s sustainable lifestyle can look slightly different and thus it can add a diverse point of view from all walks of life. The more people join in, the better idea we can get of what the future looks like.
But there is always a lingering difficult question: Will it be enough to solve the climate crisis? Will every person eventually shift to more sustainable lifestyles?
The truth is that we don’t know for sure. A small population of climate deniers may not be an issue, but climate apathy is real. Many of us get deterred from taking any individual action unless we are assured it is being taken at a massive scale.
4. Keeping a Healthy Combination
How can the above 3 tools be interlinked in creating an impact as an individual?
What kind of citizen would you rather be?
Of all the things we can do, is individual action relatively futile?
The effort may seem negligible, but the impact is immense. Individual action is relevant for many reasons:
- It is a question of integrity. People who make personal changes are more likely to demand action from their government.
- It balances out the stress that comes along with political activism with a sense of hope. This is important from the lens of our mental well-being. The fight is going to be long and we better not burn out quickly.
- It will put us in a growth mindset to be able to embrace the changes. The government policies will only work when we are ourselves mentally prepared to handle the changes that come along with environmental policies. The recent resurgence of plastic bags after a well-intentioned ban in Maharashtra is a good example of what happens when you introduce a policy for which people are not ready mentally.
In summary, as a person whose future is at stake, climate activism through political pressure and community involvement should be at the top on our lists. The best way to start is by finding a local environmental activist group in your city and ask them how you can contribute. You can be sure they are looking for numbers to join them.
There is a butterfly effect on every individual action who is crazy enough to make a change, and it cannot be denied. We only need to flap our wings as hard as possible.
--This article was written with a contributor, who is a progressive educator based out of Mumbai trying to bring about transformation in the education system towards more emphasis on personal well-being, social harmony and environmental conservation.