How to become a climate activist

Written by Zara-Louise O’Toole

We’ve all heard that shopping second hand, cycling more, flying less and consuming less meat are great ways to reduce your carbon footprint. But during this climate emergency, doing the above won’t force the government and international parties to enforce real change or improve our energy sources, food supply chains and modes of transport. 

To reach the 2050 Paris Agreement targets to keep global warming to 1.5oC we can’t only rely on our persistent day-to-day acts of service to reach a more sustainable future. We need to become Climate Change Activists.

But what do we mean when we say ‘Climate Change Activist’ and why do people often turn their nose up at it?

According to Collins Dictionary, a climate activist is “A person who actively campaigns to have issues of climate change recognised and addressed”.

‘Actively’ is a pinnacle word in the definition. Switching to a green energy provider and car sharing are ways to reduce your carbon footprint and that’s great, we need to celebrate those lifestyle changes; but ‘actively’ signifies a learning process, a challenge that is never complete and leaving your comfort zone because you know what you are doing is right.

This has a tendency to make the 59% of the UK who don’t feel ‘climate change is a very serious problem’ uncomfortable; probably because members of the population are unwilling to change their current lifestyle that they have lived for far too long behind.  

In 2021, time is of the essence and the end of the so-called ‘critical window’ is biting at our tails.  If we don’t take serious action and treat climate change as the emergency it is, we will be threatening the planet and its people to more frequent severe floods, fires, heat waves, famine and so on. Let’s act now but pretend like we should have started yesterday; pick our heels up and hit the ground running. 

I am purposefully keeping this positive because there are a vast number of articles out there about how challenging achieving a carbon-neutral economy and ultimately the sacrifices we will need to make are. It’s going to be tough, but we must to do our bit and we will be okay if we do so. 

In a TEDx talk, Luisa Neubauer, a German climate activist addressed 4 steps we need to take for real change. These steps go beyond our own personal bubble, it addresses how choosing to walk instead of drive isn’t enough, because ultimately, we are not the ones in power but we do have the drive and ambition to revoke harmful treaties and bring about real, positive actions.

Figure: Louisa Neubauer (DW.com, 2019)

The 4 points she addresses are:

  1. Drastically reframe our understanding of who can be a climate activist

The answer? Everyone. 

Everyone who wants to live on a planet that puts people, health, happiness and sustainability first; to spread the wealth, only take what we need and be conscious of the impact of our actions. 

Capitalism has made us believe for far too long that we are just consumers but we are not just that, we are political beings and that means we all have the ability to become climate activists. 


2. Get out of your convenience zone 

You have a position in society as a friend, an employee, a voter and so on. Tell your friends, employers and local MPs that you care about a brighter, more sustainable and happier future for the many.

Begin to challenge all aspects of your life; have your family changed their energy provider to a renewable supplier? Does your bank still invest in fossil fuels? Do your local busses run on electricity? 


3. Join forces

One person shouting about climate change is just one person shouting about it, the more people you get on your side, the harder it is to ignore and the more inconvenient you become. This then becomes a movement, a movement that questions an unsustainable system.

We need to take back the control from the few and use it to educate, protest, and Strike For Climate. 


4. Take yourself seriously 

“If you don’t go for something, chances are, no one else will”.

We need to start believing in ourselves and what we are doing is right, we need to stop supporting and relying on a system that has no intention to change where they get their profit from. 

Luisa Neubaur’s talk has taught me many things, but to me the most impactful was how we need to take this on for ourselves.

We cannot think someone else will do this for us. 


Create change, join movements, write letters, question where you get your comforts from, are they sustainable, are they ethical?

We need to stop ignoring the fact that 1.2 billion people in 31 countries could be displaced due to climate change, we need to make sacrifices to alleviate the worsening impact of more frequent severe weather events. We need to make this change to stop the impact of ecosystem decline and outbreaks of further pandemics. 

You’ve got this; you just need to take ownership.


References 

Climate change activist https://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/22026/climate+activist#:~:text=climate%20activist-,New%20Word%20Suggestion,global%20movement%20of%20climate%20action.%20%5B

Luisa Neubauer

1.2 billion people in 31 countries 

59% of the UK who don’t feel climate change is a threat


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1 Comment

  1. A really insightful article . Put me in mind of the civil rights slogan of the 60’s – if you are not part of the solution , you are part of the problem .

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