With all the recent news and coverage that climate change is getting, it is easy for one to get a sense of ennui, to develop a numbness to each new report that paints a grimmer version of the future compared to the previous one. It is easy to feel helpless, as if relying on the ability of a captain on a sinking ship. This post is written as an attempt to try and get you to disavow that notion.
There are many things that one can do to help solve this problem of man-made climate change. The more articles I read, the more I start to notice that they revolve mainly around two ideas - consuming less, and talking more.
The easiest way to start contributing to climate change right away is to build a lifestyle of reduced consumption. Move to climate-friendly alternatives. Some examples:
- Eat vegetarian food instead of non-vegetarian food. If you can’t go vegan, keep dairy in. If you can’t cut out dairy, try cutting out meat. If you can’t cut out meat, try reducing beef, pork and lamb consumption (chicken & fish are more environment friendly). If you can’t give up beef, try reducing the number of times you have a beef burger (or mix some vegetable based patty into a beef patty - half and half).
- Take public transport rather than your own personal car. If that’s not feasible, try getting others to carpool with you (apps like Scoop & Waze Carpool make this easier). Buying an electric car may be tempting, but if you have a gas car that’s doing fine (in terms of MPG), it may be better to stick with it rather than to get a new car (gas or electric). This is because producing new cars takes up energy, which is primarily produced using fossil fuels (learned this from a Adam Ruins Everything episode). In general, consume less :)
- Take fewer flights. If that’s not possible, fewer long flights. If that’s not possible, fewer business-class flights (if you currently do that). Aviation contributes quite significantly to climate change.
- Don’t recycle plastic. Sadly, plastic recycling is a wasted effort these days as most items go to the landfill. However, you should still continue recycling aluminium cans (learned this from a Planet Money episode).
- Talk to your friends, family, whoever you can possibly talk to. Maybe not at the risk of losing social credibility (since if you lose popularity you will be able to talk to fewer people!), but try and maximize your reach. You may be surprised to find others who also wanted to know more but were lost.
- Use Ecosia as your search engine and try to convince others to use it as well. They are very transparent with their finances and help fight climate change by donating money to tree-planting foundations. Did you know trees are excellent for removing carbon from the air[Nature article]?
- Try talking to people in positions of power and making a large-scale change. Employees in tech companies have moved said companies to be more accountable and work towards reducing emissions. After all, how does that old quote go? “Never think that a single person cannot change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Bonus: Read more
Reading more is almost never a bad idea. You can read the (pretty dry) IPCC reports, NASA’s climate website or Bret Victor’s What can a technologist do about climate change?. XKCD has a few climate change related comics too!
You should search the web for how your city powers itself as this will change what you need to do to help. For example, if your city is powered mostly by renewables (unlikely to be the case right now, but over the next few years hopefully we see more cities power themselves with renewable sources), then switching to electric cars will make much more sense. It will also mean you don’t need to find solutions to go off-the-grid. However, if your city is powered using fossil fuels (most are), then you may want to invest in some kind of solar setup - maybe small like a USB charger or larger like a solar generator. Tesla’s impact report is also interesting.
You can always find out how much different activites impact climate change by googling “XYZ carbon footprint” where XYZ is the activity you’re concerned about (like aviation, for example).