I was at dinner last night and a friend of mine, who knows that I volunteer at 1 Million Women, asked me "do you get depressed about climate change?". With a new grandchild born 3 weeks ago and another one due in 2 weeks my friend is no doubt contemplating the world that her grandchildren are being born into and the future of the planet.
My answer to her question was "yes" I do feel down about it sometimes. But, I always try and choose to be optimistic. And a good place to start to learn how we can stay positive about the climate crisis is with Christiana Figueres, who believes we can choose optimism, even in the darkest of times. As the former UN Climate Chief and architect of the 2015 "Paris Agreement" Christiana Figueres is well qualified to speak on all things climate change and action. She is the co-founder of the Global Optimism group and hosts a podcast called Outrage and Optimism.
Being optimistic is a decision that gets you to where you need to be. Christiana believes that being optimistic is simply a choice. In an interview with 1 Million Women's Natalie Isaacs she said, "If you face a challenge with a defeatist attitude you're guaranteed of failure". She adds that in terms of climate change "we can't afford failure so the only viable option we have is to decide to be optimistic".
Christiana recently joined us in our 1 Million Women LoveEarth series discussion "What our new world could look like" and spoke about how she works at positivity and how we can get out of feeling sorry for ourselves: Act on it! She spoke about when you stand back from the problem you feel overwhelmed but the moment you decide to act on it, you feel powerful. In her book she says "anger that sinks into despair is powerless to make a change. Anger that evolves into conviction is unstoppable". So let's be unstoppable! She went on to say that you need to realise that you are powerful in everything you do and every choice you make.
Three things you can do to start acting now are:
- Engage in politics. Every person should vote for climate justice. Demand responsible policy from your government. Governments have to protect their citizens. They have done it for pandemic and they have to do it for the climate emergency. A great way to start is to write to your elected representative, read a blog on how to do this here.
- Cut down flying by re-thinking business and leisure travel (well covid has this taken care of for the moment!) . After Covid continues to use Zoom for business meeting when possible. Rethink your commute to work. As Christiana said, it's not actually up to airline companies to determine how we travel, we can choose.
- Buy local, seasonal and plant-based. Be happy with food that your country or area produces and avoid foods that have been flown around the world.
Don't listen to the naysayers who say "what difference can one person make?". It's clear now more than ever, that individuals are powerful, and collectively we're unstoppable. Christiana points out that Covid-19 has taught us about the power of individuals acting in a crisis. She said it's a "concrete example of the power of individuals, not as single standing individuals but the power of individuals as a collectivity".
And, of course, if you are feeling overwhelmed and you are not up to taking action right now, don't feel bad about it, take a break from the conversation on climate for a while. That's okay and when you are ready to come back you will be refreshed and ready to continue the fight for a green, just and inclusive recovery.
By Allison Licence
Allison Licence is a Sydney-based freelance writer and 1 Million Women volunteer who is passionate about the environment and finding ways to live more sustainably.