Having learnt about climate change, I know I can no longer turn a blind eye. So I have tried making some changes to my lifestyle.
And yet, I find myself not aligning my actions with the values I seem to uphold.
Therefore, I sought to find out what I can do about it and most importantly, why I and many others are still confused about climate action.
THE CAUSE FOR CONFUSION
1. Fossil fuel industry propaganda and corrupt politicians.
We may or may not realise it but through mass media, fossil fuel industry and politicians (separately or together, who knows!) have been giving us misleading information.
2. Mainstream messages encouraging isolated consumer lifestyle tweaks.
We’ve seen those optimistic articles saying we could just turn off water and electricity when not in use, recycle paper and plastics, reduce meat intake, and fly less. While they are important actions and should be cultivated as habits, they are most impactful when done collectively.
Solution: Well-thought-out collective actions. For example, to shift the food system, it’s better to do campaigns boycotting a few particular meat production companies engaging in destructive behaviours rather than boycotting individuals who do not adhere to the ‘more sustainable’ lifestyle.
3. Thinking that small-scale behavioural shifts can actually halt civilizational collapse.
I think I was guilty of this. I thought that by my going vegan, I could help stop climate change, prevent deforestation, feed billions of people and stop animal cruelty. Obviously, those aren’t happening. However, the facts are still valid but they meant to apply on a large scale.
Solution: Once I shifted my ideal mindset and accept that small-scale behavioural changes may only affect my own life and not actually save the whole damn world, I began to see the importance of point number three.
4. The idea of “individual action” and “collective action”.
These concepts are meaningless. What can be done individually can also be done collectively. For example, it’s not just you or I who can buy solar panels but Tesco can too.
Instead, we should frame our actions as consumer and civic actions whereby both can be done in isolation or collectively. In most circumstances, an individual’s actions, whether civic or consumer, become most impactful when done at a mass scale coordinated with others.
Solution: Classify our actions as consumer or civic and attempt to apply them on a larger scale.
5. Asserting that leaders should model low-carbon lifestyles.
We as humans always want to have someone or some entity to look up to and adopt their behaviours. While collective action is necessary, it still depends on the kind of action. Some would say global boycotts or altering purchasing patterns is effective in decarbonizing the global economy. This, however, is still based on assumptions.
Solution: Organizing for holistic policies like a Green New Deal or organizing politically to regulate industries may be a better way. Something that may provide a more tangible solution.
MY CLIMATE ACTION CHECKLIST
- Join a movement — I’ve joined a couple of NGOs such as youth climate change and vegan society but I have yet to be a part of a rally or large-scale demonstrations (more on this below).
- Self-educate to internalize what’s at stake — Work in progress since 3 years ago.
- Talk with everyone and engage in a welcoming and compassionate way — Work in progress; have yet to engage in deeper discussions.
- Go on a strike — One day when I don’t depend on companies (which would kinda defeat the purpose then).
- Block fossil fuel infrastructure or other fossil fuel practices — Not yet.
- Unionize and organise with demands that go beyond workplace equity to include related decarbonization goals — Not yet.
- Vote only for people who advocate strongly for Green New Deal-style policies and annoy those who don’t — I voted for the party which advocates for a greener future but I haven’t annoyed individuals who don’t.
- Pay attention to energy decisions made by local offices like city councils and utility commissions — Need to pay more attention.
- Contact your electricity provider urging them to purchase their electricity from non-carbon sources — Not yet.
- Convert car to biofuel — Not yet and not within means.
- Earn a degree in a subfield focused on climate and energy-related issues — Work in progress.
- Buy local goods and food and encourage others to do so — Putting in practice.
- Organise neighbours to generate basic necessities without the use of fossil fuel — Not yet.
- Participate in city planning processes — Not yet.
- Cultivate relationships with community and political leaders — Work in progress.
The above are actions one can do without discretionary income. This article also lists actions that one with discretionary income can further contribute to the cause.
The take-home message for all this is that mass scale actions are imperative.
Individual actions, though important and should be cultivated, are most effective when done collectively.
That being said, we should step away from viewing actions as “individual” or “collective”. Rather, we should categorize (if one needs categorizing) actions in terms of “consumer” and “civic” actions.
As a consumer, one can purchase plant-based food instead of meat; locally-sourced goods instead of imported ones; land transportation instead of air; etc.
As a civil society, one can mobilise campaigns to boycott companies; strikes to make a stand against climate change; plans for a sustainable city/workplace/living space to reach decarbonization goals; etc.
“First question is ‘As individuals what can we do?’ – the answer is: practically nothing! What could be done and always has been done in history is by people who are organized. The labor movement, civil rights movement, women’s movement, anti-war movement, environmental movement. These can do things. And that’s one of the reasons why powerful systems are so intent on atomizing people. ”Noam Chomsky
As Earth Day is approaching on April 22, groups around the world are organising demonstrations and rallies to voice out their concerns and demands for climate change to their political leaders.
Extinction Rebellion, which is an international protest group that uses non-violent civil disobedience to campaign on environmental issues, is currently active in demonstrations, demanding for a declaration of climate and ecological emergency.
Echoing their spirit, Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY) is hosting a climate rally this Sunday, April 21st ahead of Earth Day where they will present citizen’s demands to Members of Parliament.
KAMY is a network comprising groups/individuals calling for a more democratised approach to climate action and to demand climate justice in Malaysia.
I plan to be there to add my voice to the movement in the hopes that our MPs will listen and act in a more urgent manner.
“It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now.”Greta Thunberg