Climate action is such a big topic. Chances are, you have thought about starting something a few times. Perhaps even felt a little bit guilty about not taking any action. But ultimately, there are so many issues under climate change that you got overwhelmed and ended up not acting at all.
I had a similar conundrum. I have been passionate about solving climate change for the last 6 years and I still have a hard time figuring out tangible things I can do to help. I always get stuck on results. How do I have the most impact?
But you don’t have to be on the front lines of climate activism to make a difference. Every action counts and makes a significant difference. So how do you figure out where to get started?
After banging my head against the wall for a while, I developed a rudimentary framework to organize my thoughts. It isn’t the most sophisticated set-up in the world but the idea is to use it to guide your thought process and turn an interest in solving climate change into action.
Step 1: Find a Focus
Climate change is overwhelming because it’s such a large topic. The flip side is that you can connect a topic you’re already passionate about to climate change, because almost everything is affected.
The easiest example is people that enjoy being outside, whether it’s surfing or hiking or riding a bike. All outdoor activities depend on having a healthy environment and climate change is inherently affecting that.
If you can tie your existing interests and passions to climate change, your efforts are more likely to succeed. There is no sense in working on a topic that you don’t feel committed to, because your motivation will ultimately dwindle. If you don’t like the sea, don’t pick ocean conservation!
So this first step is figuring out exactly what areas within climate change make the most sense to you.
In the beginning, it may help to just pick one, but you can go big and pick as many as you want and refine them as you go along.
Step 2: Pick the Sphere of Influence
Once you have defined the areas you feel most strongly about, it’s time to pick the sphere you want to influence. Climate action happens on multiple levels: the individual, the community, in the next generation (the youths, if you will), the business sector and government.
Not everyone has to work on each of those layers — again, it’s about finding what makes sense for you and the cause that you have picked.
Think about what is realistic and how it matches to the topics you have selected. And remember, picking just one sphere of influence doesn’t mean you are excluding the others forever, but rather it’s a starting point.
A quick example of how action differs by sphere of influence:
Individual — I will stop buying plastic straws
Community — I will convince my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours to stop buying plastic straws
The Next Generation — I will convince my child/niece’s/local school to stop having plastic straws in the cafeteria
Business — I will convince my business/local businesses to stop using plastic straws
Government — I will work with local/national government to develop a policy to ban plastic straws
Step 3: Brainstorm
So you have the topic and you have an idea of who you want to influence — now it’s time to figure out what to do!
Grab a giant piece of paper and jot down ideas.
Some things to think about:
· What are you hoping to achieve?
· In a year from now, what should your chosen sphere of influence be doing for climate change?
· Can your broad goal be split into sub-tasks?
· Will the sphere of influence need additional resources to do these tasks? If yes, what kind of resources?
Go wild. There is no limit to the imagination, which is why I prefer doing these brainstorms on A1 papers (recycled, of course), so there is plenty of room to keep the ideas flowing and push myself outside of my comfort zone.
Step 4: Make it Practical
Review your ideas and pick the ones you like the most and want to implement. It could be one big idea, it could be ten smaller ones, it doesn’t matter. Take an idea and see it to the finish line.
For me, that means breaking the idea down into its components and figuring out how to make each step happen. Put on my sensible hat and ask the difficult questions.
Is this in your realm of capabilities? Do you have the appropriate skillset? If not, what are the missing skills? How long will you need to implement this idea?
The good news is that you don’t need to do it alone.
Once you identify what is missing, think through the network you have available to you and who you can tap to help you achieve this goal.
Collaboration is critical in the fight against climate change. If we don’t work together, we will never succeed.
Step 5: Act
Get out and start doing!
It’s lovely when things fit into a defined framework. Unfortunately life has a tendency to deviate from step by step guides.
I wrote my guide and then I actually did it to see if it works (can’t give recommendations without testing them out!). Needless to say, my framework helped but it didn’t go quite according to plan. In my brainstorm phase, I got stuck and then went off on all kinds of tangents that made me revisit my first steps. But that’s okay. Sometimes all we need is a framework of some kind, even if it’s just to look at it and decide it’s rubbish.
Give it a twirl and see if it makes sense for you. Any and all feedback is welcome — even the kind that tells me this is rubbish!
Written by Eleni Polychroniadou