Finding your place in the climate movementFeatured

Finding your place in the movement to combat climate change, especially if your background is not one traditionally considered "useful" in the energy world. This post could be relatively brief, and broadly would focus on identifying one's greatest strengths and strongest skills, finding which industries or technologies inspire one the most, and then seeking opportunities in those places. The message could broadly apply to any other cause, but climate change is the one with which I am most familiar.All of us on the West Coast of the United States remember it. The week of September 7th, 2020. The day San Francisco became Mordor, the day the sky turned deep, ominous orange. Some of us are still in that moment.Climate change has been here for a while now. We are officially in a climate crisis. If that wasn’t clear, it is painfully clear now. A lot of us are wondering, even more than before, “Well, what can I do?” Today I won’t be telling you to buy an electric car or go vegan. Studies actually show that, when individuals are told which personal actions would seriously mitigate climate change, that actually discourages people from doing anything and could push them in the other direction. ( The truth is, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the spotlight on police brutality in the US, this is a systems problem. 100 companies and organizations have caused 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s not get started on policy. ( )What’s a conscientious reader like you to do? For those of you in the United States, I will recite the now trite suggestion to vote -- and to help your community vote, especially if you are at risk of voter suppression. In the US, the single greatest way to prevent extreme federal environmental protection rollbacks is to have a Democratic president and abolish the filibuster. But that’s not the whole story. In 2020 we continue to see what a movement of people can do. How when we band together, the powers at be are forced to take notice of us. So, one of the best things you can do is to create and join a community with people who want to live a solarpunk ( future and not a cyberpunk one. Which community to create? Here’s where some self-reflection comes in. What fires you up? What are your strengths? If you are passionate about politics, dive into climate efforts happening in your town, county, or state, and organize an advocacy group. Local politics set LOTS of precedent for future climate efforts. Leah Stokes talks a lot about community advocacy; I imagine her book has lots of good case studies If you’re good at number-crunching and bookkeeping, learn more about utilities and how they set tariffs and source their power, and then educate your neighbors. If you love to draw lush landscapes, illustrate a metropolitan area full of electric trains, community gardens, and clean air, to help us picture how beautiful our future could be. If you love to geek out about technology, learn about all the new battery technology to make the electrical grid resilient in addition to renewable, and maybe even work on improving batteries! The list goes on. You don’t need to be an electrical engineer or a seasoned activist to foster a climate-focused community. We need everyone and all kinds of skills to keep Earth alive. We already have most of the technology we need to electrify everything, but it’s a matter of whose finger is on the light switch. There are a lot of fires right now, both literal and metaphorical. On a personal level, many of us are approaching burnout if not already there. In the book Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski ( , human connection is one of the key necessities we need to combat and prevent burnout. We’re seeing now more than ever the importance of human connection and community for the future of our world. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that building and strengthening communities is the secret to both individual and societal healing. So, what can you do about climate change? Find your strengths and your interests and figure out how to leverage them towards climate and energy topics. Collaborate and conspire with others on how they can use their strengths in their areas of interest, too. Then let it grow. For some further reading, I seriously recommend:-- Picking up All we can save ( ): an anthology of essays, poetry, and illustrations by women in the climate movement. The tagline is, "Truth, courage, and solutions for the climate crisis." Lots of the thoughts I have written here are mere echoes said by various contributors to this anthology! -- For a quicker reference, this recent thread by Dr. Katharine Hayoe makes some great points about collective action, especially in the face of climate despair:
Thanks @amrosnik for writing such a thoughtful post. I've been reflecting more on climate action too, and recently read Jane Fonda's book about the topic: my notes below for those that might be interested in concrete actions but don't have time to read the book.Regardless of political persuasion, the environment is home for all us.********Notes: What Can I Do? My Path From Climate Despair to Action by Jane Fonda[These are notes from the book, not necessarily my views]Macro takeaways:We basically have ~10 years to avert catastrophic consequences of climate change to get on sustainable pathTo date, the government has focused on the demand side (e.g. getting people to recycle) instead of regulating the supply side (e.g. fossil fuels, subsidies, etc.)Given the size of the problem, collective action is needed (to show politicians that voters are serious about this issue) and sweeping legislation Individually we are powerless to make systemic change; we have to collectively organize for national and global legislative changesCountries with highest levels of individualism are also the ones where people understand climate change the least - UK, US, Canada3 Call to Actions for everyday people:Vote up and down the ballot for climate change Voice → family and friends, media, contact congress members Join marches, protests, recruit friends → civil disobedience if you’re someone in the socioeconomic class and situation that can afford to do soIndividual Actions - book’s recommendationThe Green New Deal & Government-driven policyMuch work ahead to fill in the details and build supportWith gridlock in federal gov’t, likely see more progress on state and city level Examples: Seattle introducing free public transitAction suggested: make it known to politicians that climate change is your #1 issue; vote for climate action up and down the ballotOcean & FishingEat small local and wild - sardines, herring, and anchoviesAvoid eating big fish and top-feeders. They have so much mercury in them; longer growth cycle before they reproduce (e.g. tuna, swordfish)Reduce consumption of farmed fish like salmon and tuna; they eat wild fish; takes 5 pounds of wild ground fish to produce 1 pound of farmed for latest on what fish to eat and avoidOrgs to support: Oceana Women & Climate ChangeNeed women in leadership positions able to decide issues that affect their livesCountries where women lead embrace international climate treaties more often than countries led by menMost of the world’s farmers are womenAction: advance equal pay and equal rights, education and contraception; support women in leadership roles, support women by doing equal share of caretaking and household work; ensure women are at the table in discussing climate actionOrgs to support: National Domestic Workers Alliance, 1 Billion Rising, School Strike for Climate, Women’s Earth AllianceWar & the MilitaryWar and militarism → creates climate catastrophe → which in turn produces more warWars are often fought over resources (e.g. oil)Example: Syrian conflict that erupted after 3-year drought that drove 800,000 farmers into the cities where they faced unemployment, discrimination and hardshipMilitary is exempt from most environmental regulation → 10% of most toxic sites are on or near military basesAction: urge elected representations to scale down military spending and redirect it to improving living conditions at homeIn 2019, U.S. military budget bigger than the next 7 countries combined$.53 of every discretionary federal dollar goes to the military (not including homeland security)The U.S. has 800 military bases over the world; Russia for example has 7U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers (cost up to $13B each) compared to most other countries that have 1Very little of U.S. budget actually goes towards the troops - half the military budget goes to military corporationLearn more: nationalpriorities.orgEnvironmental Justice:Commit to Jemez principlesFind out about toxic exposures where you live and work → start a campaign on environmental justice EPA used to share this data on its site; now you have to contact local and state officials to release this dataInclude those most affected by the problem, in crafting the solutionDon’t just move the problem in someone else’s backyardWater Books: “Whose Water is it Anyway”Short film: “The Story of Bottled Water”Commit to no buying bottle waterAvoid hazardous household chemicals that contaminate waterwaysAdvocate for protection of wetlandsCampaign to get your community to become a Blue Community (human right to water) → calls for: 1) recognize water as human right 2) promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water services 3) banning sales of water bottles at municipal eventsResources: Blue Community ProjectPlasticsAll well and good to do things at individual level, but to have impact at scale need to get gov’t and corporations to actGet your city council to ban plastic bags, then move to state ban → and get bans on plastic water bottlesReduce availability of fossil fuels → advocate for stopping fossil fuel extractionAvoid unnecessary packaging and reuse containers/bags & buy products in bulkChoose paper, metal, glass over plastic goodsGreenpeace is running campaigns to pressure large grocers like Trader Joe’s to reduce packaging waste at their storesFood & AgricultureReducing meat and dairy consumption, eat more locally, reduce food wasteCompost Food and ag policies: demand schools and other orgs shift from industrial meat farm suppliers; ask restaurants and groceries to source ethically produced meat and food; ask local government to stop subsidizing factory farms and support small organic farmersOrganizations: Food and Water Watch, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, United Farm WorkersClimate MigrationHelp those around you understand the connection between climate change and migrationThousands of climate refugees are displaced within AmericaSpeak out against immigrant detention centers and detaining migrant children → ask elected officials to support reuniting familiesOrganizations: United We Dream, Migrant JusticeJobsLabor and climate activists should listen to each other and find ways to join forcesResources: Labor Network for SustainabilityUse your political voice: advocate for transition and retraining support for those that lose their jobs in transition from fossil fuels → ask Congress to redeploy fossil fuel subsidies to taking care of worker transitions and supporting renewable energyHealthHealthcare provider: Healthcare without Harm’s Climate challengeAsk Congressional Reps to support the Workplace Heat Protection bill (Public Citizen to learn more)Wear mineral sunscreen safe for ocean lifeForest and Climate ChangeForests are the lungs of the earthDemand elected officials buy forest products that are produced sustainablySupport social movements: encourage corporations, retailers and restaurants to source from environmentally sustainable suppliers; to commit to reducing deforestationIndividual level: reduced consumption of single use products esp. those made from paper, wood, rubber; avoid palm and soy-bean oil; eat more plant-based dietInvesting MSCI research: between 2010 and 2017, fossil-fuel free portfolios outperformed portfolios with coal and fossil fuelAdvocate for divestment campaigns at university endowments and other large institutional funds you’re associated withAction: Demand your politicians take a No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge (not to accept any contributions over $200 from fossil fuel companies and PACs)Action: check out and to research how to green your portfolio - look up fossil-free funds; list of cleanest funds on market - with costs and expected returnsLook at Banking on Climate Change by the Rainforest Action Network report to see if your bank is an offender in financing fossil fuels and deforestation - historically JP Morgan and Wells Fargo have been at the top of the
@amrosnik I feel very strongly about our destruction of our beautiful planet.As an ex motivational psychologist (growth mindset Stanford), now in tech, I've got one point: we are ALL very bad with prevention focus (avoiding undesirable results), we need to start pushing this as **an opportunity** - a promotion focus.Learn and do something about the climate crisis today because these jobs are the future. Sooner or later governments will react, and that will cascade down to companies. Teach yourself the skills today, so you'll be ahead of the curve tomorrow.It may sound sad we need to market the climate crisis in this "egoistic" way, IMO it's a case of the means justifies the end.
Thank you @amrosnik for such a wonderful post! Agreed 100% and on my mind also, every single day. Resources that have been invaluable to me, for sharing, are as follows: 1/ This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein;2/ The Leap, an incredible advocacy organization also involving Naomi Klein and many others: 3/ The Unihabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells; 4/ Drawdown by Paul Hawkins often think that a lot of people want to help, yet are not sure exactly how or what they can do to make a difference. Yet, there is momentum building that hopefully allows us a chance (albeit slim) of reversing these catastrophic trends. May we come together effectively! And may we continue these discussions here, as they matter. Thank you for starting the conversation!
Great suggestions!Drawdown gives me a lot of hope. Here's their most recent review outlining the solutions on how we can get to Drawdown ( the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline):
@HeidiHartingRex Thank you for sharing some of your favorite resources, Heidi! I really like Naomi Klein's writing; I read On Fire earlier this year. big part of people getting to help is talking about it, like we are now. The good news is that, more and more around the world, the majority of people profess fear of climate catastrophy and an interest in mitigating the climate crisis. @meg I really, really love the work Project Drawdown does. I live for their annual reports! I would love to work with them somehow someday, since they do lots of analytics, and data analytics are my jam.
@silviaem Excellent point, Silvia. While I tend to be a pessimist and as such dwell on thinking about all we stand to lose if we continue on a course of inaction, that doesn't resonate with the vast majority of people. We have to put a "positive spin" on it, somehow. The truth is, though, that this is a HUGE opportunity. So many jobs will be needed to scale up renewable energy resources, reconstruct electrical grids, retrofit homes and buildings, rework supply chains...the list goes on, and that's already a lot! Ultimately the rate-limiting step here is policy, and that's been the case for a while. We don't have time to wait for governments to react sooner or later; we need them to act yesterday. Businesses are beginning to catch on to all the opportunities here, but governments need to catch up and invigorate both private and public sectors to do more and faster. While I can't speak on politics outside the US, hopefully some recent changes in US politics will lead to more change faster, in the US at least.
@amrosnik I love this post soooo much! Thank you for this reflection. I just listened to this Gimlet episode It's about talking to your fam about climate change in a productive way and it's excellent. I'd love to get in touch with you and chat more. I actually write a weekly, actionable climate newsletter that helps people find their place in the climate movement, and it's geared towards busy people in tech/business who often feel like they don't have the time to research or volunteer or be a part of effort-intensive solutions.I believe everyone has a role to play even if it's small: me know if you're open to chatting! The thread by Dr. Katharine Hayoe is really great -- I haven't seen it before & just followed her.
@niviachanta Thanks so much, Nivi! I have yet to get into How to Save a Planet, I hate to admit...I haven't been as on top of my podcast game this year. But in honor of USA Thanksgiving, I will need to give that episode a listen! Glad you're a new follower of Dr. Hayhoe. I really like her approach to climate. Definitely, let's talk about your newsletter and see how we can help each other out. Please DM me so we can find a good time to chat!