What you do matters

When we talk about climate change solutions, we also need to analyze power and how we distribute power.” — Vivian Huang, Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Climate change is the existential environmental issue of our time. For the first time the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  tackled the  thorny question of individual and societal change head-on in a report released earlier this month. The number one takeaway: To take action on climate change, you have to direct some  attention to changing systems and structures. 

How individual action can have broader effects

What happens when a neighbor installs a rooftop solar panel? Sure, it reduces that household’s footprint, but it also makes it more likely for others in the neighborhood to adopt solar energy too. The house with solar panels nudges social norms and expectations and serves as  a role model.

Now think bigger. A person connects with others in their community to pass a law that updates energy efficiency requirements for the town’s buildings. That’s organized collective action. “Collective action as part of social or lifestyle movements underpins system change,” the report says.

As another example, the scientists noted the climate strikes that have given voice to youth in more than 180 countries. These social movements have exploded as the first generation growing up with the harsher realities of climate change becomes a political force globally. 

Whether on a national, regional, or local level, we all can act on climate change. We can work with our transportation, parks, planning, and housing agencies to reduce air pollution and climate-related health risks. We can educate our policymakers and the public about the climate and health connection and the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Take a moment to think about how you can join with others so that every day is Earth Day.

Source: Vox, “Yes, you can actually do something about climate change,” Rebecca Leber, April 21, 2022