There are many conflicting reports about what actually makes a difference in our climate crisis. On one side of the spectrum we hear people advocate that we should stop flying, stop eating meat and bicycle more. On the other side of the spectrum there are people who state that lobbying politicians is really all that matters and our individual actions won’t be enough anyways. So, is it worth making incremental changes to our lives? If I change myself, does that really matter?
The short answer is Yes.
Let’s reference our iceberg to find out why.
Helplessness is the emotion we feel when we see a challenge and don’t think there is anything we can do about the situation. The climate crisis is a common trigger for this emotion in many people. In 2018, when I sent emails to my MP or my MPP, there would be a chance that I would get some lip service response, but that would be the best outcome I could hope for. This would increase the feelings of helplessness. Helplessness does not motivate us to make further changes. Helplessness arises in this instance because I am attempting to change something beyond my control. Helplessness tells us to look for things that are within our sphere of control. When we work towards influencing things we control, helplessness subsides because we are now empowered.
When we start to make incremental changes in our lives, it is true that these actions on their own will not save the climate. However, with every action we make that is firmly within our control, we regain some power over our future. When other people in our lives start to notice that we make changes and it is doable, we can engage them in conversation. We can let them know that we no longer feel helpless since making the change. We can share that we may experience other benefits including improved health, mood, and financial savings.
Some of these people won’t get it. Some people will think the changes are ridiculous or a sacrifice. However, some people will think the changes are interesting but not for them. And then there will be some people who are inspired enough to make changes themselves. Others will already be making changes themselves and we can encourage one another in our endeavours. With each change that an individual makes, the ripples cause more and more people to start realizing that these changes are doable, important, and inspiring.
Fast forward to 2020 and enough people have been making individual changes and connecting with one another that there is now a worldwide movement blossoming. The facts have been there for more than 30 years. But facts don’t start movements and they certainly don’t influence politicians. Our emotions influence these decisions and so we need to be working with them effectively. By empowering ourselves, we can connect with others leading to inspiration. When we inspire a critical mass, we develop an unstoppable movement.
It only takes 4% of the population to be politically active in order to see massive political change. If you can continue to take more steps in your own life and continue to bring your friends along the way, climate action will become a regenerative, unstoppable force. Our individual choices matter more than we can even imagine.
Nate Charach is a psychiatrist who works at a community hospital and has also completed his permacultural design certificate. His emotions urge him to combine these skills to create thriving communities that are in harmony with nature. With his clients, he attempts to work in partnership to find common meaning and value from their challenges.
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