It goes without saying, I am big into sustainability. Whether it’s repairing things at home or letting my garden re-wild – I’m all in. I truly believe that taking individual action to try and make the world more sustainable is really important, because we can make a difference. That being said, I’m by no means perfect at it.
I’ve been slowly adding notches to my sustainability belt over the years. Beginning with vegetarianism (ok I did have a lapse last year… chicken wings :/), for the last 7 of 8 years I’ve been by-and-large a veggie and am working towards veganism as my next step. I’ve installed filters on my washing machine and tap to stop releasing microfibres from clothes and to stop consuming micro-plastics in my water, and I buy second-hand as much as I physically can.
All of these things line up with my values, and I’m finding that the more sustainable habits I add over time, the better I feel. In fact, I see my individual actions as a sort-of meditation that helps me relieve some of my own climate anxiety. To put it simply, I believe that taking up non-violent direct action to force change is the best thing I think we can do in the face of our current climate crises.
1. Time’s Running Out
The measure I look at most is Atmospheric C02 PPM – uhhh science booorriinnngggg – stick with me! We all know C02 is the bad guy, but what matters is how much of it is in the atmosphere – PPM stands for Parts Per Million. If we reach 450PPM, climate change is locked in, irreversible. Have a look at this graph to see how humans have made it skyrocket.
Everyone talks about keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees but guess what, the chances of us achieving that are less than 1%. Time’s up, pals; we gotta act collectively now because me and my wildflower garden just isn’t going to cut it!
2. The people have more power than you think
The notion that me and you are responsible for the surge in C02 is a tiny piece of the puzzle. Of course, developed countries like ours are consuming too much. But when we look at what that consumption is made up of, we see most of it isn’t within our control.
In Ireland most of our buses are still diesel, our cycling infrastructure is crap and our farmers are getting nowhere near enough financial support to incentivise them to move to a land stewardship role and away from intensive dairy. The levers of change are well and truly in the hands of government and big business, but only public pressure will incentivise them to act.
3. With craic, comes solidarity
For me the protest is so much more the sum of its parts. Sure, it’s where I’ve made amazing friends, learned a ton and, yes, had serious craic. But there’s also a subtle thing that happens when you get involved in activism – you build optimistic solidarity. You start to realise that change is possible. By getting to know fellow activists, we start to build networks and solidarity that makes our communities more resilient.
4. System change demands it
In September 2014 the People’s Climate March mobilised 400,000 people in NYC. I remember being on the anti-Iraq war march in Dublin as a kid with 250,000 people. The Iraq war still happened and sure enough, since the 2014 climate march not much of the system has changed. Marching is crucial; petitions matter; emails are important, however what is needed now is to move from a passive form of protest to a coercive form.
The system won’t change unless we bring our capital cities to a halt; unless we show those in power that we will no longer accept business as usual. It’s time to stop asking politely for the end of the world not to happen. Kapeesh?
5. It works
The biggest critique of direct-action forms of protest has been that they “turn people off”, or that they don’t work. My friends, the data would show otherwise.
In the month that Extinction Rebellion launched, 15% of people thought climate action was the most important issue facing us. Compare that to today, it’s averaging around 35%. It may be correlation and not causation, but look at Extinction Rebellion Ireland’s main demand, to lower emissions 8% per year over the next decade. When announced, nobody thought it was realistic, now it’s making its way into governmental discourse. If we all do it, it works, quickly.
I understand that the facts on climate change are hard to swallow and make for grim reading, but I am a firm believer that the greater an emergency, the greater our response should be. We shouldn’t be concerned about the consequences of closing down our cities, of being arrested, or of taking direct-action when the alternative is what scientists call a “1-20 chance of Human Extinction”.
I have no doubt that future generations will look back at the leaders of today as criminally inept. How could they not. However, the question we should all ask ourselves, is how will they look back at me?