If inividual action isn’t going to cut it, why advocate for it?
Studies have shown that individual action is not going to be enough to reverse the negative effects of climate change on the planet. We cannot stop global warming, we (by we, I mean governments of large companies and corporations) can only try to lessen its effects and protect those who will be affected by it. So why do I care about it?
For starters, I care about lessening my impact because I consider myself to be an ethical person, and my biggest ethical tennet is “Do no harm.” While I know that I’m not to blame for climate change, I cannot consider myself to be an ethical person if I don’t do whatever I can to reduce the amount of harm that my existence does to the world. I can do small things to help where I can, and know that despite my inability to create large scale change, I can try to put some positive change out there.
Secondly, I believe in peer pressure as an effective way to motivate social change. Making changes in your life to be more sustainable can influence other people to be more sustainable, and large scale change is what we need in this situation. One person shouting isn’t a whole lot of noise, but a whole stadium full of people all yelling is ignorable. This article by the Washington Post makes lots of good points about this, for example, people are more likely to want to buy a new car when they see that one of their neighbors has just bought a new car. One person buying a fuel-efficient car can prompt the people around them to also buy fuel-efficient cars. In an interview with the BBC, Professor Kelly Fielding of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia said this, “What we know as social psychologists is that people are very influenced by what others do, even though we don’t think we are… It’s a paradox. We think we make our own decisions, but the truth is we look to others for guidance about how we should behave.” Therefore, the more people who make an effort to be zero-waste, sustainable, and/or eco-friendly overall, the more other people will be influenced to make these changes too.
Thirdly, I think it’s important to walk the walk. I cannot be effective as an activist in educating other people and trying to effect change at a legislative level if I am not making the changes that I’m asking other people to consider making. It has been shown that climate advocates who practice what they preach are viewed as more credible, and people are more willing to make changes based on what they recommend.
The moral of the story is, I am willing to make changes in my life that inconvenience me, make my life harder, and take away things that I enjoy because it is the right thing to do. It would be so much easier to not care, to only blame corporations and the government, but that doesn’t fit with my worldview or meet my expectations of myself. It is the government’s respsonsibility to make nationwide changes to prevent and protect against the consequences of climate change, but it’s my responsiblity to support candidates who will make those changes and lobby for those changes to made. It is corporation’s responsibility to work harder to lessen their impact on their environment, but it’s my responsibility to support corporations who do this and speak out against those who don’t.
If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either considering the sustainable lifestyle or are already in it and are looking for more reasons to be and resources to lean on. If you fall into the first category, I hope you decide to make the change. If you’re in the second category, welcome! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow my blog and check back often for updates!
(In the order they appear or are referenced in the post)
Clendaniel, Morgan. “Focusing on How Individuals Can Stop Climate Change Is Very Convenient for Corporations.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 11 Jan. 2019, http://www.fastcompany.com/90290795/focusing-on-how-individuals-can-stop-climate-change-is-very-convenient-for-corporations.
Howarth, Richard B., and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, Ethics. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2009.
Frank, Robert H. “Perspective | How Peer Pressure Can Help Save the Planet.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Feb. 2020, http://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/02/20/how-peer-pressure-can-help-save-planet/?arc404=true.
Rowlatt, Justin. “Climate Change Action: We Can’t All Be Greta, but Your Choices Have a Ripple Effect.” BBC News, BBC, 20 Sept. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49756280.
Fryling, Kevin, and Jim Hanchett. “IU Research Shows Climate Scientists Are More Credible When They Practice What They Preach.” IU Bloomington Newsroom, University of Indiana Bloomington, 16 June 2016, archive.news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2016/06/attari-climate-credibility.shtml.