The world is on fire. The average global temperature has increased by more than 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution. That might not sound like a lot but if the temperature rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius, which it most likely will by the end of this decade, there will be catastrophic storms, unprecedented flooding, deadly heat waves, global food shortages, and an irreversible loss of biodiversity. At our current rate of heating, the global temperature is expected to increase by over 5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. At that point, all of the coral reefs in the oceans will be dead, many coastal cities will be underwater, and some inland cities will be uninhabitable dustbowls with no drinking water or edible crops.
This is only part of the story, though. Climate change doesn’t affect everyone equally. The people with the biggest carbon footprint are the least affected by climate change, while those with the smallest carbon footprint are the most affected. By and large, wealthy people living in the global north, especially white people and men, produce the most carbon, while poor people in the global south, especially People of Color and women, produce the least carbon, while suffering the worst effects of climate change – things like geographical displacement, poverty, and chronic illness. Climate change, in other words, is really climate injustice. It’s a harm inflicted by those who have the most on those who have the least. And while we may not be as rich or as toxic as Jeff Bezos, we should do what we can to try to reduce our carbon footprint.
But how can we do this?
There are two main things that we can do. The first involves doing less and the second involves doing more. First, we can do fewer things that harm the planet. We can eat fewer animal products, or none at all. Veganism has been described as “our best and most immediate chance to reverse the trajectory of climate change” by scientists at Stanford and UC Berkeley. We can buy less new clothing, or none at all. There is now enough used clothing to clothe everyone on the planet many times over. We can take fewer flights, or not fly at all. (I know this one sounds hard but there are actually a lot of cool things to see in the Midwest!).
The second thing that we can do for the planet is more collective action. More community-building around sustainable practices like veganism, local gardening, and thrift shopping. More protesting against environmentally harmful policies. More support for oppressed communities, like women and Indigenous people, who are already at the forefront of climate activism. In fact, empowering girls and women around the world is consistently ranked among the top two solutions to climate change by climate research organizations. The solution to climate change, in other words, is climate justice. It’s shifting power from the most well-off to the least well-off.
Our world is on fire. What are we going to do about it? All of us have to do more, but we also have to do less. Less consumption, more coalition-building, less meat, more community gardening, less injustice, more equality.