‘You’re much more powerful than you think’: How you can combat climate change
THE WORLD’S leading scientists have warned that urgent action is required to minimise the damaging risks of climate change before it’s too late. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on the impacts of global warming, which found that we have only 12 years left to limit the Earth’s rising temperature to a maximum of 1.5°C, or we’ll see catastrophic impacts such as worsening droughts, more severe floods, mass extinction and devastating heatwaves.
The urgency of the message in this report is clear – we need to act now. But for many of us, this can be an overwhelming thought. How can we, as individuals, have any real impact on climate change?
Anna Rose, co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Strategic Campaign Manager for Farmers for Climate Action, and self-proclaimed ‘professional greenie’, says every single person is vital in the fight for climate justice.
Anna’s climate story
Anna Rose, who was awarded Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year in 2014, is an expert in individual action to inspire collective change, and her experiences in environmental activism started at a young age.
Growing up with grandparents on a drought-stricken farm in north-western NSW taught her the basics about climate change, and from there her interest grew. “I realised that climate change wasn’t just an issue about polar bears, it was about people, and rural communities that I had been lucky enough to spend so much time in as a kid,” she says.
By the time Anna had finished Year 12, she’d already helped coordinate a joint campaign with the Worimi Traditional Owners of the NSW mid-north coast and the Wilderness Society, which successfully prevented international mining giant, BHP, from building a new mine on Aboriginal land.
This was paramount to Anna’s story, as the campaign showed her “that we live in a country where it is possible for change to come from the bottom up, not just the top down,” she says.
Between becoming the National Environment Officer with the National Union of Students during her time at university, setting up the largest youth climate movement Australia has ever seen, the AYCC, and playing a pivotal role in turning Earth Hour into an internationally celebrated movement, Anna has developed a wealth of knowledge when it comes to climate action.
“Start where you are”
Anna believes that anyone can work to make a difference to climate change just as she did, and one of her biggest tips is to “start where you are”.
“I was in school, so I set up an environment group in my school. Then I was at university, so I formed a group and we launched a campaign calling for the university to do more on climate change.”
Looking at what’s around you and making the most of your existing relationships and communities can be a powerful first step. “We are much more powerful than we think,” Anna says.
Use your social power
Many people, according to Anna, don’t realise the influence they have on the people around them. “We know from research that the second most trusted messenger on climate change is people’s friends and family – second only to climate scientists. So having those conversations even when it feels awkward is so important,” she says.
Anna urges us to do this in every situation, even suggesting bringing up the weather at a barbeque to make a subtle segue onto the topic of climate. Conversations like this could be monumental in changing how people think about climate change.
“We have to talk about it,” she says. “It’s here, it’s urgent. We can’t not talk about this anymore.”
Talking about climate change can sometimes be difficult, but Anna says we have to start with the solutions.
“The climate problems are big and overwhelming, but a lot of people don’t understand that we already have the solutions. Who wants to talk about a problem, if they think there’s no solution? So start with the solutions, and I find it’s much easier.”
Use your political power
Anna advises to not be disheartened by politics, but instead to actively engage in it. Call your MP, send them a message, talk to your local council and “just call to have a chat about the environment, and tell them that you care,” Anna says.
“You don’t have to know all the facts, but letting them know what you think is a hugely important thing that you can do, because they represent us at the end of the day.”
Use your consumer power
In the same way that you can vote for who you want in parliament, you can use your dollar to vote for what products you want to see in the market. “Make sure you’re not buying stuff you don’t need, and where you are buying things that you do need, choose more responsible products.”
Ethically made, sustainably sourced and locally produced products are where we should be investing our cash, according to Anna. “Support your local farmers and get your fruits and veggies from the local farmers markets,” she says. But Anna cautions us to look at our consumption in all aspects of our life, not just at the supermarket.
“We should all be thinking about things like superannuation and banking – are yours fossil free? Your toilet paper – is it sustainable?” There are many alternatives out there that invest your money in environmentally and socially positive projects.
Anna suggests being aware of your media consumption, too. “Try to engage in media from places that are putting out important and accurate stories on the climate and environment, and share those stories with your family, friends and around the workplace,” she says.
Use your employee power
We spend a large majority of our waking hours in our place of employment, which Anna says is a great place to kick-start some environmental action and awareness amongst your peers. “It comes back to that idea of starting where you are.
“Think about what you can do in your workplace to take action on climate change, or what your place of employment can do. That might be in the supply chains or through what the company purchases, what they invest in, or whether they use renewables.”
Aside from largescale production changes, Anna says there are “so many little things you can do.” If you work in a café, you can put up a sign saying “we support climate action”, or incentivising the use of reusable cups. “Workplaces are such a powerful space for change,” Anna says.
Despite the confronting news from the recent report about the state of our planet, it’s important to remain positive.
“[Climate action] is the biggest movement in human history, and being part of that and seeing how much progress people are making every day gives me the courage and determination to keep going, and allows me to remain hopeful for the future,” she says.
“We need legislative action, we need cultural change, but we also need individuals. And that’s one of the first steps.”