Full disclosure: I’m not a climate activist…but I would like to be.
The climate crisis can make me feel hopeless. I want to contribute to solving the crisis, but I know that reusable straws and KeepCups won’t cut it. Beyond individual lifestyle changes, it can be hard to know how to take action to combat climate change. This time last year, I thought that climate activism was all about protests and public speaking, and that you had to live a perfectly sustainable lifestyle and be an expert on climate change to join the movement. Since then, I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Climate activism comes in many forms and is accessible to everyone.
Here’s how I moved from individual lifestyle changes to climate activism.
1. Educate yourself on climate change
You don’t need to be an expert on climate change to take action, but exploring the subject a bit more can motivate you and give you more confidence to carry out your actions. I think it’s a good idea to start by watching some documentaries. If you don’t have Netflix or Amazon don’t worry. Films For Action is a digital library full of free documentaries and short films on climate change and other inspiring topics.
Podcasts are also a great tool. My favourite is Mothers of Invention, where former Irish president Mary Robinson and comic Maeve Higgins discuss feminist solutions to climate change.
If you want to go deeper, there are lots of free online courses on climate change available. Here’s a course on FutureLearn which focuses on solutions to climate change, and here’s another course on the UNCC:Learn (a knowledge-sharing platform with tons of courses on different aspects of climate change) which explores how to move from learning about climate change to action.
2. Join a climate activism project
Take your learning to the next level by joining a collaborative project to learn with others. Last year, I took part in an online volunteer project with Voluntary Service International called ‘Wikipedia for Peace: Climate Justice’. The project gave me the opportunity to discuss climate justice issues with people from all over the world. It was so inspiring to learn about other people’s experience of climate change and activism. You can join one of VSI’s other online volunteering opportunities to learn and share information and solutions for climate change.
This online project experience is what motivated me to act beyond individual lifestyle changes. I signed up to An Tasice’s Climate Ambassador Programme to be part of a more collective action. In the programme, I’ve received training on how to carry out effective actions and communicates about climate change. Being part of a climate training programme has given me more confidence in my ability to act for climate justice. It has also allowed me to meet loads of other Irish people who care about the climate crisis, which brings me to my next point.
3. Join a climate action group
Finding local climate activists may help you to take those first steps with the support of other people who care about this issue too. I started by following Stop Climate Chaos (SCC), a coalition of Irish organisations that campaign for climate justice, on social media. I attended one of their webinars, and after that, I felt a bit braver and joined one of their campaigns with Friends of the Earth, which linked me with a local group. It can help to make a commitment to go to just one meeting and see where that leads you. If you’re nervous, sign up with a friend.
4. Talk to politicians
Hear me out on this one, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Having never spoken to a politician before, I reluctantly signed up for an online lobby of TDs organised by SCC as part of their One Future Campaign for faster and fairer climate action. I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive the politicians were to our concerns.
Make writing a letter, or meeting with your local politicians to express your concerns about climate change, the first thing on your activism to-do list. If you’re not sure how to go about this, find out more about how to contact politicians about climate change. A Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss is currently underway so now is the perfect time to tell your local politicians how much you care about this issue.
If you’re not ready to speak to your representatives directly, you can still have your voice heard by making a submission to the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss. There are loads of opportunities to engage with government, all you need to do is show up and show you care.
Collective action leads to big changes
Big changes start with lots of little actions, and anyone who takes action, no matter how small, is an activist. Climate activism is school strikes and making speeches at the UN, but it’s also educating yourself about climate change so that you can educate the people around you. It’s listening to others and finding other people who care about climate change. It’s showing decision-makers how much you all want change.
So, maybe I am a climate activist… and maybe the fact that you’re reading this article right now means that you are too!
Illustration by Nichola Irvine.