Do you feel overwhelmed thinking about actions to take for climate change? I do too. I’ll admit, I was in climate crisis denial until the July 2022 European heat wave when I saw images of melting roads in the UK. Even though I’ve lived through multiple California fire seasons, including the day the sky turned orange, it was the melting roads that got me. I’ve only just begun to explore actions to take for climate change, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far in case it is helpful for you.
I really didn’t know anything about climate change except for watching An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, so over the last several months I’ve been slowly educating myself. I started out reading All We Can Save, an anthology of essays by a diverse group of women writers about climate change challenges and solutions. Because some of my work involves communications, I was particularly interested in Katharine Hayhoe’s essay, “How to Talk About Climate Change,” which led me to read her book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. I’ve also gone to a couple of the All We Can Save Project‘s virtual community events: Comics and climate emotions: A climate studio led by cartoonist and illustrator, Madeleine Jubilee Saito, and Indigenous sovereignty and the power of story: A climate wayfinding dialogue with Jade Begay, Director of Policy and Advocacy of the NDN Collective. I also watched the documentary Greta, to get a little peek into how generations younger than mine are feeling and reacting to the climate crisis.
One of the things I appreciated the most about the All We Can Save Project’s Comics and climate emotions workshop was having an hour to feel all the feelings I have about the climate crisis. Climate anxiety, especially among young people, is a growing problem. A study published in 2021 surveyed over 10,000 youth in over 10 countries. The study found, “significant levels of psychological distress associated with climate change, exacerbated by the government’s failure to act quickly. About three-quarters of young people felt that the ‘future is frightening,’ about half said that they experienced climate anxiety to a degree that affected their daily lives, and about a quarter indicated fear about having children due to the climate crisis.”
Climate change is a huge, systemic, global problem. As we begin to witness its effects more frequently in the news and in our own lives, it can paralyze us. Britt Wray, author of Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis suggests finding someone to talk with about it: “There are lots of ways in which to start the emotional processing of such feelings in a supportive way. That can be a climate cafe, an activist group, friends who simply get it and are ready to talk in an open non-judgmental way, a loved one in your family, or a climate emotions processing program like what’s offered by the Good Grief Network.”
Talk about it
When I decided to read All We Can Save, I knew I was going to need support, so I asked some friends to read it with me and talk about it afterwards. I’m so glad I did. Just by chance, we ended up being a multi-generational group: Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial. It was interesting to hear different generational perspectives and comforting to talk with other people about the climate crisis.
In addition to talking about climate change with friends, Katherine Hayhoe says it’s important to talk about it in general, because not enough people do. She suggests that when you talk with people about the climate crisis, to connect it to things they care about like family, jobs, housing, food, health, faith, and things they do for fun. According to her book, what you don’t want to do is focus on data and stats: “when we’re talking about contentious, politicized issues, study after study has shown that sharing our personal and lived experiences is far more compelling than reeling off distant facts. Connect who we are to why we care.” She also says it’s important to end the conversation by offering ways for people to answer the question, “What can I do?”
Take action (especially with others)
As I mentioned in, Want to Make a Difference? Look at What You Love and at What You Grieve, the co-editor of All We Can Save, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, created a fabulous Climate Action Venn Diagram. Filling it out helps you find actions to take for climate change at the intersection of “What am I good at?” “What work needs doing?” and “What brings me joy?”
A major theme throughout All We Can Save is the power of groups. As Christine Nieves Rodriguez wrote in her All We Can Save essay about recovery work in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, “The times we will be facing are going to require us to recognize that the most important thing around us is community.” Once you’ve completed your Climate Action Venn Diagram, and generated some climate action ideas, ask yourself:
What organizations, groups, or projects exist that are doing similar work?
Who in my life could I ask to join me in this action?
Personally, after a life-changing whale watching trip to the San Juan Islands, I’ve been drawn to the role oceans play in the climate crisis, and in particular whales. Not only do I want these magical creatures to survive, a study found that whales can be carbon sinks, “The enormous size of these marine mammals, which can reach 150 tons, means they can store carbon much more effectively than smaller animals.” Their poop is also good for combatting climate change. “Their iron-rich feces creates the perfect growing conditions for phytoplankton. These creatures may be microscopic, but, taken together, phytoplankton have an enormous influence on the planet’s atmosphere, capturing an estimated 40% of all CO2 produced – four times the amount captured by the Amazon rainforest.” I’m still searching for a way to contribute my skills directly to whale conservation. In the meantime, I’ve participated in local coastal cleanups.
Actions to take for climate change and your Big Vision
I hope sharing my explorations of how to find actions to take for climate change has been helpful. Whether you decide to put climate change action at the center of your work in the world or as something you do on the weekend, you can make a difference, especially if you do it with others.
Want someone to talk with about how taking climate change action fits into your Big Vision for your work in the world? Book a complimentary coaching call.
3 thoughts on “Actions to take for climate change and your Big Vision”
What an inspiring post Britt. Whales are magnificent animals. I look forward to reading about your next step.
Yeah, Britt! Thanks for this. Two resources: 1, check out San Francisco Baykeeper (full disclosure, my partner is their lawyer); they do bay/ocean advocacy and litigation, and lots of beach cleanups; and 2, check out my friend Rachel Sarah’s work. She’s a climate journalist and you two should know of each other. Her books might be inspiring to you.
Ooooh! Thank you so much for the great ideas, Susie!