What can you actually do to tackle climate change?
6 Minute Read
If you take a look at the most recent IPCC report (IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), two words come to mind: we’re f***ed.
The effects of climate change are everywhere, from food and water insecurity to ecosystems collapsing to extreme weather events. This is no joke. And it’s scary AF. But the truth is: it’s been scary for a long time. It’s just that the problem is so complex, it seems unsolvable. How the hell can you and I ever tackle the man-made climate crisis that’s coming right at us? Surely making your own toothpaste and composting in your backyard isn’t gonna cut it. We’re already seeing warning signs of climate change. And things are only gonna get worse.
So the question is: where do we go from here?
And how can we have an impact that extends beyond our personal choices?
This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the past several years of building Mama Eco. I started with one idea (blogging about consumption, plastic overuse, and climate change) and then felt like I’d hit a wall. After lots of reflection, I thought to myself: the impact has to be bigger. And this has happened many times over the past 5 years. At each turning point, my core mission stayed the same, but my actions towards supporting that mission evolved. What started as a blog, turned into workshops and 5-day sustainability challenges, which then shifted into consulting with businesses to help them tackle their own footprints. Each step working towards the goal of tackling these big fat elephants in the room like climate change and plastic pollution.
And even with my business consulting, I’ve recently come up against barriers that limit the potential impact of the work being done. So I enrolled in a fellowship program to deepen my knowledge and expand the ways in which I could further help businesses.
All of this to better educate, empower and inspire people to take action in the fight against climate change. And still today, I come back to the fact that “the impact needs to be bigger”. But I’ve realized that my superpower is actually my voice and my ability to connect and inspire people. That is how the impact gets bigger. When I look at all the people who I’ve helped over the past 5 years, that is impact. And it brings me back to an idea I heard last year on the How to Save a Planet Podcast.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, co-host of the podcast, marine biologist, and policy expert said that the question she gets asked most often is: “What can I do to help address the climate crisis?” And she created a way of answering that was specific to each person who was asking the question. Because the truth is: that’s the exact question we all have? I’ve certainly asked it, and I’m confident that you have too. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have read this far.
Cause here’s the thing: it’s easy to focus on reusable water bottles, the vast array of eco-friendly products, and LED light bulbs. And while those things are crucial for getting started on your sustainability journey, they only focus on your individual footprint. They don’t look at the bigger picture. Which is exactly what we need if we’re gonna crack this climate nut. Focusing on your individual footprint also doesn’t take into account your ability to influence others. Which brings me back to Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. By the way, I think I’ll call her AEJ for short. Think she’ll like that? Probably not, but her name is a mouthful, so I’m gonna roll with it for a bit. Besides, “RBG” and “AOC” roll wonderfully off the tongue! So AEJ it is. Ok ok…back to it…
AEJ created a Venn diagram of impact where you reflect on three things:
- what brings you joy
- what you’re good at
- what work needs to be done (in terms of the climate crisis)
And yes, I’m calling it a crisis because that’s what it is. None of this climate change BS anymore. Let’s get real and honest because it’s the only way to truly face what we’re dealing with here.
I couldn’t figure out how to embed the image of the Venn diagram and didn’t want to include it without getting permission, so I’ve created a simplified version of it above. You can check out the original Venn diagram on AEJ’s instagram.
When you find something that allows these 3 things to intersect, that is the answer to the original question of what can you do to tackle the climate crisis.
Let’s take a closer look at why these three things are important:
What brings you joy?
It seems frivolous at first glance, but if you can’t take joy and pleasure out of something, you won’t be vested in it and you will likely drop it eventually.
What are you good at?
This is key because you’re not gonna be very effective at something if you’re not good at it and have no natural affinity for it. This is where you get to lean into your strengths.
What work needs to be done?
Now, this is where most people focus, but end up falling flat, losing interest, or burning out because they don’t incorporate the other two.
Here’s an example: if you’re an introvert who hates speaking in front of people and isn’t very good at it, your superpower will not lead you to be the frontrunner of a climate change protest. But if you’re a data scientist who loves running numbers and building software, then your zone of genius could be working at a startup that’s developing carbon capture technology.
See where I’m going with this? The most impactful thing you can do to tackle the climate crisis is specific to you. And it may be totally different from your spouse, your neighbor, or your coworker.
The answer is different for everyone because everyone has different skill sets, different strengths, and different privileges. By the way, that last one is very important to acknowledge because a potato farmer in Idaho will have a very different approach compared to a marketing director in Singapore. Still, they can both move the needle in their own way.
The role of Ikigai
AEJ’s Venn diagram also taps into the Japanese idea of Ikigai. Ikigai is a way of living in which balance, wellbeing and purpose come together to create a fulfilled life. If you take the things that you’re good at and the things that bring you joy and apply that to the climate crisis, you’ll be onto something that can create real impact.
This can manifest in lots of ways, from talking to people about the climate crisis to asking your employer about their climate manifesto (or if they even have one!), to volunteering in your local community, to voting, to protesting, to swapping out that nasty plastic toothbrush. It’s all the things, not just the products we use or the electric car we drive, or the food we eat. We need to think bigger and start focusing on how our actions can spread out like a mind map of ripple effects.
The fight against
climate change ehem! the climate crisis looks different for everyone. The ways in which you can have the most impact will be different from other people. So lean into your strengths, what you’re good at, and what lights you up.
When you apply these to the work that actually needs to be done, you’ll be unstoppable. And even though this is a global probllem, you can’t fix that all on your own, so start with you, then move to your household, then move to your community. Then perhaps your state, your country, and so on. This is a big nut to crack, but look at how quickly the world shifted during the pandemic. We are capable of global change, we just have to be motivated and we have to have something to lose.