This is not the first time – nor will it be the last – we discuss the global climate crisis on Beyond the Riverbend. But this past Friday, September 20th, 2019, the global climate strike kicked off with the largest climate rally in history. People from all over the world, from every walk of life, took to the streets in their towns to send a message to the planet and their country’s leaders – climate change is real. Not just that – human-induced climate change is real. We, human beings, are killing our only home. We’re stealing the futures of our children and their children. It isn’t comfortable, is it? It’s not comfortable to think you – by your participation in some of the smallest things we’ve been taught as a society are convenient and safe – play a part in something so atrocious. And it certainly isn’t comfortable to swallow the guilt that then ensues after such statements are internalized. However, this conversation cannot end there. We cannot simply state that we are the problem without also addressing that we can be the solution.
Bringing awareness is so incredibly important, but it really is only the beginning. I was among the millions of people who took to the streets with my sign and my outrage and marched to help send a message. I felt actively involved in being part of the solution and the fire in my belly was reignited. Right then and there I felt like a bride renewing my vows to dedicating my life to this cause. To making a positive impact on the planet. To treading lightly. To being the change I wish to see in the world. But when I came home at the end of the day and took a shower, cooked myself dinner, and sat down on my couch in my air-conditioned little home, I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming emotion of helplessness all over again. When all is said and done, will there actually be any change? Will other people – especially lawmakers – finally understand the sense of urgency? Will they begin to set us on the right track to do everything in our power to reverse climate change? I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. I may be wrong, but I think that the majority of people who feel apathetic… just don’t fully understand how they can act and how easy it can be. They feel paralyzed by the enormity of the problem. And the result? Inaction.
I’m here to tell you that even when I hit rock bottom and feel like the situation is utterly hopeless, I remember that I can be the change. In fact – I am the change. You are, too. So often we only think on the large-scale rather than the small-scale, and forget that we can make just as much of a difference as our politicians. I daresay we can make even MORE of a difference, especially when united. I’m guilty of this lapse in judgement as well, and the hopelessness I feel is usually because – in that moment – I’m convinced the fate of Mother Earth is out of my hands. But it absolutely isn’t. Do not leave your hope in the hands of others. Be the hope.
From the moment you wake up, to the time you lay your head down at night, you make thousands and thousands of decisions, both big and small. It’s immeasurably important to ensure each of those decisions are in line with environmentally conscious commitments. I promise that there will soon be future blog posts solely dedicated to the little ways you can make a difference in your daily life. But here are a few examples: if you use a Keurig coffee machine, make sure you’re only using a reusable coffee filter – Keurig cups are one of the leading contributors of plastic waste; if you need to buy something from Amazon, reconsider whether you can find the items you need at a store near you – those items have already been shipped to your area, whether by truck or plane, and you will reduce your contribution to the fuel and emissions caused by shipping packages; and when it comes to dishes, 1) limit or completely cease the use of one-use, disposable plates, forks, knives, and spoons in your home and instead use your glass dishes and real silverware, and 2) fill your entire dishwasher before you using it to clean your reusable dishware – it is only effective in saving water if you have a full load of dishes inside (the same concept goes for your laundry, but like I said – we’ll discuss further solutions in blog posts to come, because there truly are so many ways you can single-handedly help save our planet).
The global climate crisis isn’t about any political agenda. This isn’t a liberal issue or a conservative issue – this is a human issue. A survival issue. And survival should not be a political item up for debate. Breathable air and drinkable water should be a concern for everyone, and it should absolutely be something we all demand – through all of our actions, including who we elect – and something all of us fight for with every breath in our bodies.
Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist you’ve probably already heard of, has made so many poignant comments. But because I am a scientist, who received her degree in wildlife ecology & conservation, and who has been studying the subject all her life… one of my favorite quotes from Greta is, “Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?… Some people say we should study to become climate scientists or politicians, so that we can, in the future, solve the climate crisis. But by then, it will be too late. We need to do this now.” She delivers a crucial point – there is no time to waste. The time is now.
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” – Dr. Jane Goodall