Facing the challenge of the climate crisis fundamentally involves creating not just change but transformation. We are going to need to change the way we eat, farm, travel and how we power and heat our homes. However, a lot of damage has already been done and so the future is going to require us to adapt to higher sea levels, more extreme weather and the loss of biodiversity.
Einstein famously said that a problem cannot be solved with the same kind of thinking that created it. Action is what will create change but quality of that action will depend on the quality of thinking that precedes it. The dominant paradigm needs to be challenged, in particular, the mainstream narrative that the way to solve the climate crisis is by changing the choices we as individuals make: our consumption habits, the energy we use and tracking our carbon footprint. We were told that flying less, buying electric cars etc. was where our power lay in making a difference and ‘saving the environment’. While these small choices are helpful and important, they do not get to the core of the issue. We need to go ‘upstream’ to the source of the problem. We need radical change at the systems level.
Systems change happens at the political level when, for example, the government stops subsidising airlines or invests in affordable public transport. Our culture’s emphasis on individuality means we often feel helpless in trying to contend with a problem as complex as climate change. But when we see ourselves as part of a collective or a member of a larger team that is working towards the same goal, it becomes much more manageable. Rather than feeling like we have to do it alone, we simply play our role and do the best we can from the position in which we find ourselves. All progressive change in history came about when humans came together. It is about taking responsibility and activating agency within our own sphere of influence. This does not require people to march and protest but perhaps simply to form connections and start conversations within their social sphere. Taking action might involve joining a community garden, or speaking to your local politician, creating art or speaking out. Change is coming, but with change is opportunity: to be innovative, to do things differently, to experiment with new ways of being.