The Climate Emergency Requires Broad, Bold, Collective Action

Climate Action Requires Broad, Bold, Collective Action

The Need For Large-Scale Change

While I genuine love sharing personal stories and tips for cutting down carbon, we ultimately need large-scale change to overcome the climate crisis. That doesn’t mean that they are mutually exclusive. We totally have the power to chose when it comes to our individual consumption. Whether we chose to drive, eat meat, or carry a reusable bottle. There are steps you can take to diminish your personal impact.

However, your personal consumption is a fraction of what is contributing to this planetary mess. That’s not at all an excuse. It’s not an out to say, my contribution is minimal, so what difference does it make. Of course, that’s not how it works. You may have already seen the memes about “it’s only one plastic straw, said billions of people.” Our impact is in our collective scale. Therefore, to effective address the climate emergency, we clearly need collective action.

This is a climate emergency.
Click for more from ClimateBen on Twitter.

Working Together

We can totally cut back on carbon emissions. But the responsibility should not be on the individual. We’re talking about planetary climate change! It’s obviously going to require government and institutional action. Unfortunately, some state governments have also attempted to make the case that their individual contribution is not big enough to make a difference (like Australian or the UK). That’s simply not true.

The responsibility of government is to represent the interests of its people. This includes the health and safety of the population, as well as the natural environment that supports that very health and safety.

Peter Senge Quote, "I often say that leadership is deeply personal & inherently collective. That's a paradox that effective leaders have to embrace."

Collective Leadership

We need governments to switch on and actually do their job. It’s clear that serious climate action is needed to advert the climate crisis. Individual action, while incredibly motivating, is a step towards the larger requirement. It’s going to take large scale transformation.

As a species, our power is in our capacity to work together and collaborate. It’s the social elements, the very core of what makes us human, that have allowed us to circumvent the globe to begin with. Well, we now need to use towards confronting the climate crisis. We need broad, bold, collective action. And we need it fast.

Good Will Hunting_ "It's not your fault" gif

This Is Not On You

To be clear, the climate crisis isn’t your fault. It’s not on you if you didn’t bring your reusable bottle today, or you forgot to ask the waitress that you don’t want the plastic straw. But as a member of society, it is on you to demand better. It is on you to do what you can to help motivate for change.

Above all, we need to hold governments and companies to account. We can start with the largest contributors to global warming. Statistically, that’s the fossil fuel industry. Companies that deal in coal, oil, and gas represent the lion’s share of carbon emissions. Reports revealed that just 20 firms are behind a third of all carbon emissions! It doesn’t get any clearer.

We know which specific destructive practices contribute the most to climate change. We know that we need to decarbonize. Despite this, governments continue to use taxpayer money to subsidize and support the fossil fuel industry. This runs contrary to every shred of scientific advisory.

Office Space Meme
Click for more on climate blame.

The Blame Game

Not only that, but popular marketing has redirected climate blame to the individual. Somehow industrial practices of deforestation and fossil fuel extraction is the fault of the consumer. Rather than the result of a corporate executive that works on maximizing profits, it’s somehow on you for not buying the over-priced green option, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

It’s on you to measure your consumption and your carbon footprint. In fact, it’s been reported that the very term “carbon footprint” was the result of a very successful PR campaign on behalf of British Petroleum. By shifting the responsibility onto individuals, the fossil fuel industry could continue with its destructive operations.

Oil Firms spend millions on climate lobbying - Infographic from Forbes / Statista.
A Forbes / Statista infographic on climate lobbying.

Big Money in Play

It’s a brilliant strategy. The fossil fuel industry in particular, which represents some of the wealthiest companies in all of human history, have been spending a lot on climate deception. That’s on top of all the other money the fossil fuel industry is already dishing out in political lobbying and astroturfing. It’s pretty hard to compete with all that dough.

One clear path to confront all this oil money is through collective action. History has taught us that things can change when enough people come together to demand it. It begins with optimism. With a hope that we can do better, and a belief that change is achievable. In that regard, we have little choice. The science of climate change is bleak and intrinsically disturbing.

Climate change is exasperating storms, floods, & fires.
Click the image for a great Vox post detailing climate change contributions by country.

The Heavy Burden of Climate Devastation

We can do better! Clearly, it’s not on you to fix the climate crisis. The same way it’s not on you to change or fix public healthcare, unemployment, or immigration. These are obviously large-scale issues, and it’s pretty ridiculous to think that the brunt of responsibility should fall on the individual. The climate is not in crisis because you don’t drive a Prius or use a bamboo toothbrush.

Yet hat’s the kind of message I keep seeing from so many corporate outlets in particular (see Coca-Cola for example). And not just from the companies. People online also repeat the message. That if you really cared, you have to be the one to sacrifice. It’s implied that the crisis is a result of poor consumer choices. That people are heating the planet because we aren’t ready to give up some degree of convenience.

Late Night with Seth Meyers, "No! That's Not How This Works!"

Blatant Misdirection

The message is obviously false. While we can all attest to a preferability for convenience, that’s not what’s heating the planet. Nor is it as a result of a lack of sacrifice. Yet time and again, this is what I see it advocated throughout online forums and message boards. Outrageous misdirection that declares the climate crisis is occurring because people are selfish. That if you really cared, you need to be willing to give up on cost and convenience. That you as the individual need to make the sacrifice in order to diminish the climate emergency.

I strongly disagree. It should not be on the individual consumer to be fully informed of the science behind every product, investigate the corporate supply chain, and ultimately pay more for a product that does less evil for the planet. It’s not realistic, and it places too much of the burden on the consumer. Individuals are burdened as it is. We must already carry the weight of the crisis. Meanwhile those who profited most from it can simply fly off to one of their many estates, or hire private firefighters, boats, etc.

Set your sights higher for the benefit of our collective future.

For Our Collective Future

It just doesn’t compute. The weight of responsibility should not sit so heavily on the individual. Rather, we need government action to take a stand on our behalf. Since that doesn’t appear to be the case at present, then we need to take collective action. There are things you can do! Like contacting your elected representative, joining an organization, and communicating the need as much as possible.

Although we individually didn’t create the climate emergency, as inhabitants of the earth we do have a responsibility to protect it. If only for our own well-being, and that of our future generations. The warning signs are everywhere! This is an emergency. Yet as frightening as it is, we can still do something about it. Through hope and collective action, we can generate the critical mass necessary to achieve meaningful climate action.


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