What Can An Individual Do ?

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is a 16-year old Swedish student who has become internationally known for raising the awareness of climate change.  In August 2018, Greta took time off from school (i.e., went on strike) and demonstrated in front of the Swedish Parliament, demanding leaders address climate change.  Her actions attracted media attention and since then, she has been credited with starting the “school strike climate movement” – a movement that has attracted thousands of school strikes internationally.  She spoke at the 2018 United Nations Change Conference and plans to speak again later this month at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23, 2019.   On September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, people across the world plan to strike to demand actions to address the climate crisis.  The principle demands sought include:

  • Transform our economy to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 and phase out all fossil fuel extraction through a just and equitable transition, creating millions of good jobs
  • A halt to all leasing and permitting for fossil fuel extraction, processing and infrastructure projects immediately

I plan to attend the September 20 Strike, as a show of support for taking aggressive action to address climate change.  You can too.  “Click this link” for more information about where events are scheduled and RSVP.  Individuals do make a difference.  Greta Thunberg is an excellent example of how an ordinary individual can inspire others and make a huge difference. 

Jay Inslee

Another individual who I believe has made a big difference is Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State and until recently, a contender for the Democratic nomination for president.  Inslee has dropped out of the race but, by having climate change as his singular, signature issue, has caused climate change to be at the forefront among the remaining candidates.  CNN hosted a 7-hour Climate Forum on September 4 with each of the ten leading candidates given 40 minutes to discuss their plans and address audience questions.  If you missed it, “click here” for a summary of the candidates’ key points or “click here” for the “5 Takeaways from the Forum”.  What impressed me was the enthusiasm each candidate expressed for aggressively addressing the climate change problem.  Governor Inslee’s plans obviously influenced the current candidates.   

So, what can we do? Last week’s New York Times Climate Fwd newsletter had a simple message:  Driving your car less – they suggest 10% – can have huge implications for greenhouse gas emissions if everyone did it.  Driving 10% less means eliminating on average 1,350 miles per driver per year – which, to my amazement, is equivalent to taking 28 coal-fired power plants off line for a year!  Another example of how small individual changes can add up and make a big difference.

It occurred to me this simple guideline, namely making small individual changes, is the essence of what I’ve been writing about throughout this year.  Consider: driving less (I Get Around, Let’s Go Ride A Bike); consuming less (Too Much Stuff, Mardi Gras); using less power (Turn Out The Lights);  eating less red meat (Less Beef, Less Carbon, No Red Meat, Impossible); using less paper (All This Paper); creating less trash (Louisiana Crawfish Boil, On The Beach, Those Were the Days); using less plastic (Single-Use Plastic, The Last Straw, Fast-Food Packaging), etc. 

In these previous posts, I’ve talked about how I could make choices that would be better for the planet.  (For a refresher on specific actions you can do to drive less, consume less, etc., click on any of the links above.)  These small changes have been relatively easy to make and to the degree others have made some of these changes, the impacts are multiplied. 

So, what can an individual do?  First, consider all the things we can do to effectively “choose less”.  And second, let your views be known.  Some would argue it’s the most important thing you can do.  And if more of us practiced these two actions, we would make progress toward getting those 28 coal-fired power plants off line.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish student, is credited with raising global awareness of the risks posed by climate change, and with holding politicians to account for their lack of action.  As an individual, she chose to take up the climate cause and persuaded her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint, including giving up air travel and not eating meat.  And as a result of her individual actions, she mobilized a movement that just might make the difference to our planet’s future.  All of us can make a difference.

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