Are you feeling endlessly terrified and frozen from climate anxiety?
You're not alone. ❤️
I found myself in this position of feeling angry and disconnected from politicians, business leaders and bureaucrats, unaware of how I could really make a difference, and wondering how the hell we'd find the solutions. 😅
After some digging... 🔎 I discovered we already have hundreds. ✨
So I'm going to walk you through my journey in relation to:
A Quick Disclaimer
🚫 I'm not going to judge or tell you what you should do with your life, but you (and everyone else) needs to do something — now. The science is clear and has been well established on climate change for years and we're already seeing more and more of the effects like stronger hurricanes, worse fires and flooding. It's going to get a lot worse too...
Please don't use your time debating endlessly with those who refuse: take action. Even if you think climate change isn't real, a lot of these solutions have additional benefits of being cleaner, more cost effective and are renewable so we won't run out of them eventually.
What I've Learned
Plus how I'm dealing with and reducing climate anxiety
Trust me, I get caught up in it too...
Complaining about the inaction, excuses and frivolous facades of bureaucratic summits that shockingly seem to achieve nothing despite all the hype.
Feeling betrayed by companies and industries that seem to get away with (often literally) murder or poisoning the air, water and land with no consequence, as long as they fill the pockets and help politicians in their seats.
Relatives and others who deride 16 year old kids or anyone willing to speak up and do something, while parroting basic climate denial talking points that only take a few clicks or minutes to look into and debunk...
It's frustrating as hell. 😡
A major insight I've learned with anxiety is that I always need to take action in order to calm and overcome it.
It's the same with climate change.
If I just sit and read the news or see the latest tweets roll in of what latest disasters are happening or on the way and I think we don't have any way to fix or address it, I'll just spiral down endlessly into a goopy ball of anxiety and despair... You too?
Talking about it, educating people and getting your friends or family onboard with personal changes (or pressuring politicians into real action) is important.
But we're screwed if we only have a really insightful conversation. 🔥🔥🔥
🌎 How do we fight climate change? Drawdown
One of the most helpful steps I took that immediately focused my energy and reduced the foggy confusion around my thinking was discovering Drawdown.
What is Drawdown?
In their words... 👇
Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. We did not make or devise the plan—the plan exists and is being implemented worldwide. It has been difficult to envision this possibility because the focus is overwhelmingly on the impacts of climate change. We gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global greenhouse gas emissions within thirty years. The research revealed that humanity has the means and techniques at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented, yet many more solutions are coming due to purposeful human ingenuity. The solutions we modeled are in place and in action. Humanity’s task is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible as soon as possible.
For me, it was the clearest and most-affirming book on climate change to allow me the opportunity of shifting from spinning in circles unsure what to do into taking educated action on what are proven to be the most impactful ways I can change my lifestyle to reduce emissions or help improve carbon sequestration.
Among the myriad ideas running through my mind for my next projects are social enterprises to help fill a need among that list — so it's even more intriguing to me.
Fair warning: The book is written from a very scientific, data-driven and technical perspective (which only adds to the credibility of their findings and statements), although it doesn't make the simplest or most entertaining read.
I've laid out my main insights below for those who may not end up reading the book or want a quick summary first. 👇
💡 My main insights from Drawdown:
1. We already have the solutions we need
And more importantly, many of them provide additional benefits (like costs savings over time) which nullifies a large number of the debates against renewable energy and switching to new systems and infrastructures.
Here is the ranked list of solutions from Drawdown. As an example, Wind Turbines (onshore) comes in at #2 overall and provides a 6X savings.
An increase in onshore wind from 3 to 4 percent of world electricity use to 21.6 percent by 2050 could reduce emissions by 84.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide. At a cost of $1.23 trillion, wind turbines can deliver net savings of $7.4 trillion over three decades of operation. These are conservative estimates, however. Costs are falling annually and new technological improvements are already being installed, increasing capacity to generate more electricity at the same or lower cost.
It's an investment that makes total sense. 💰✅
2. Personal and political efforts all play a major role.
Solutions #3 and #4 out of 100 (ranked based on the potential impact) are actions that individuals can make a change on — relatively easily if you get past your own excuses — with Reduced Food Waste and Plant-Based (or Rich) Diet respectively.
By being more mindful of your eating, cooking and grocery shopping habits to reduce the amount of waste you create — doubled up with composting (#60) food scraps that are inevitable. We can reduce a lot of emissions created and wasted in the food supply chain along with the decomposition of scraps.
Adopting a vegan diet reduces your impact on the climate and has many science-based health benefits for you as well.
There are many solutions that most individuals outside of the related industries won't have a hand in, but it's worth noting the impact of these two simple steps that you have control over ~3 times every. single. day.
🔥 What I believe
First of all, yes I do believe the science on climate change. I've done quite a bit of digging into the data myself although I'm nowhere near an expert. I have also worked through the arguments of many climate skeptics and deniers (which is often quite simple to poke holes into and debunk). While there's always an open debate on certain details or aspects, the larger picture is fairly clear and unanimous. Plus, from the similar scare of the ozone layer, we can see that policies plus action can work.
I feel deeply for those who've dedicated their lives to these massive issues and have been largely ignored, dismissed or now get horribly pestered and abused by deniers and those caught up in conspiracies...
Even if you believe that activists or the media are being too extreme or the impacts and estimations are being blown out of proportion and it's just another doomsday scenario that will pass like the others — it doesn't matter in my eyes.
These solutions are better investments, cleaner technologies, renewable energy sources, safer systems and provide a brighter, more equitable future for everyone around the world when in a proposal like the Green New Deal. That's why environmental and economic justice, along with equality is a large part of the proposal, which helps to not only address racial issues, Indigenous rights and involvement, living wages for all, and growing economic inequality.
Yes, it's necessary to transform our energy grids and many other systems, but if it's done through our current ways - it will only deepen other massive issues we're facing right now.
Through a proposal like the Green New Deal, we can tackle them all together.
⚡️ What I'm doing to reduce/increase my impact
1. ✊ Get educated, show up in the streets, and VOTE.
There's a lot of moving pieces and factors involved, which are impossible for any one of us to know. However, it's important to get educated and learn from the experts (full list below) who have been working and championing these issues or solutions for years and stay up to date through quality investigative journalism and articles. Personally, I prefer The Guardian, The Correspondent and Canadaland specifically for getting more informed and involved with Canada and our local politics.
I strongly believe we need to push for a Green New Deal in Canada and the US.
Once you're caught up yourself, it's important to talk about it with others and see where they're at. Can you help lead as an example for them? Do they need help being pointed in the right direction with a few things?
Friend mentions they're anxious and overwhelmed because we don't know what the solutions are for the climate?
👉 Share Drawdown with them!
Overhear (or see a conversation online) about how renewables aren't viable?
👉 Link to an article showing the facts on cost + trends (w/ source)
And finally, get involved in your community or local government.
Are there any events, groups, charities or initiatives going on? If not, are you able to help organize and make something happen?
This is currently the stage I'm most focused on at the moment, as I've set better roots in Montreal and have begun learning French. Recently I learned about a local organization that had an event in our area, so we reached out to them, signed up and went to go check it out...
🤦🏻♂️ The event was in French, despite bilingual marketing and no warnings online or when we arrived.
Expect challenges and roadblocks, then just keep going.
We need it.
Recently we also had the global climate marches around the world, which resulted in over 500,000 (HALF 👏 A 👏 MILLION 👏) people out in the streets of Montreal.
It was the largest protest in history for Montreal (a city known for collective action) and was unlike any else I've experienced before. Being highly sensitive, it wrecked me a little bit for the next 24 hours with a massive migraine, but it also helped instil hope that together we can drive change and there are countless people who care and are willing to take the necessary action.
I've also been making a major effort to become more informed and involved in Canada's politics to fight my own apathy and help drive the larger policy and systemic change that's necessary in order to properly address these challenges. It's hard with how divisive and vapid a lot of politics is... but the more that younger generations can become informed, involved and challenge the outdated policies, rhetoric and politicians - the faster we'll bring the positive change we need and that will hopefully no longer be the case.
I voted early. I built a quick tool to help remind people to vote. I did more research than ever. I talked with friends, family and many others about the election, the issues and encouraged many people to make sure they voted (including a first time voter who recently became a citizen!).
Every little bit helps and thankfully, we brought in some new MPs who will help push for stronger climate change policy and other necessary plans we desperately need. I'm going to continue to try and stay informed with ensuring that promises are followed through — while pressuring politicians for stronger, bolder action.
Now, I'm brainstorming and planning my next steps to increase my impact.
2. 🥑 Vegan diet and lifestyle.
Since 2015, I've adopted a vegan diet and lifestyle, which was driven from an ethics, environmental and health perspective. It's mostly a strict vegan diet (with some flexibility when necessary) into my diet. This included restricting myself from buying goods that were made of leather and other animal products as much as possible. While I'm not 100%, it's a main lens and value that I make these decisions through now and around 90% or more of the choices I make fall in line with it.
In that time, I — one single person — have saved approximately:
💧 7,599,117 litres of water, 🌳 5,110 sq.m of forest, 🐓🐄🐖 1,825 animal lives, 🌽 33,033 kg of grain, 💨 16,608 kg of Co2 (source of very rough estimates).
The reality is that it's becoming easier and easier to eat vegan, whether at home or outside, as more places adopt options or open up shop. Plus, the more people that step forward to demand more supply — the more there will be.
3. 🚫️🚗 No car, I walk and transit everywhere.
I've never owned a car, although I used my parents' for a little bit when I was still living at home. I walk and take public transit everywhere. This is often a major factor when deciding where to live when choosing apartments and I suggest using the WalkScore system. My current apartment at this time of writing is an oasis with a walkscore of 91. ✨👏
I know this is not currently an option for everyone, which is why we need communities to invest in more public transit (it should also be free).
I also run my own businesses and choose to work from home or nearby cafes.
In one year, "if just one driver per household switched to taking public transportation for a daily commute of 10 miles each way, this would save 4,627 pounds of carbon dioxide per household per year—equivalent to an 8.1% reduction in the annual carbon footprint of a typical American household." (source).
Using the estimates above, I will have saved approx. 💨 32,389 pounds of CO2, if not more with no commute, walking, etc. over the last 7 years.
Since moving to Montreal, I've found the transit here to be some of the best around (at least that I've experienced in Canada so far) and often it's much faster and more efficient to take the metro compared to driving or using ride share.
When you factor in a reduction in stress (does anyone like traffic?), likelihood of an accident or injury and cost savings around not needing insurance, parking, etc. there are lots of other benefits to using public transit.
4. 🚫️✈️😭 Drastically reduce or eliminate air travel.
Damn... this is a hard one. I love to travel. Most of us do, right? Especially in this glamourized instagram influencer age of affordable flights. But it's currently one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.
I have travelled quite a bit myself in the past and it's unlikely that I'll never take another flight again, but this is currently a major consideration I have that weighs against taking a trip that requires a plane for whatever reason.
Also, please do not go on a cruise... 🛳💨
- Staycations, explore locally or travel to nearby locations
- Travel by car, bus or train instead
- Propose meetings by Skype, Zoom, or whatever other video conferencing instead
5. 🥦 Composting and wasting less.
For the last 4 years, I've been focusing on composting any and all scraps that I can (here's a great guide to composting). Just make sure you check on the restrictions or guides for your local system or the way you choose to do it.
My efforts have included a backyard composting system, a city pickup shared bin among our apartment building at our previous place in Vancouver, and now a community bin (despite our requests and wishes).
Now, we're stuck falling through the cracks of some bureaucratic bullshit in Montreal as our street gets free compost pickup. BUT — since our building has more than 10 units (or something like that), we need to have a shared large bin and after proposing it to the condo board, it was shot down...
There's at least 2 or 3 community bins less than half a block away.
But guess what? 🤨 Not enough people are using them, so we can't either.
We can't even pay for a private compost pickup service (despite being willing to) because they don't cover this area due to the city servicing where we are...
All of this has caused us to trek about 3 blocks away, down a 'green alley' to drop off our compost about once a week. It's ridiculous and we're still fighting for a solution that makes more sense.
I'm walking you through all of this to say that the systems are obviously not perfect (or often don't even exist yet at all), so we need to pressure the government, the communities, and our neighbours to step up and help make the changes with us.
6. ✨ Adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
You 👏 don't 👏 need 👏 half 👏 of 👏 that 👏 shit. 👏
Seriously, it's insane how much stuff most people (myself included) gather over time if you're not careful and mindful about what you purchase or simply acquire through all the little gifts, grab bags, souvenirs and such.
Much of the world works through supply and demand. If no one is buying or asking for it, then that business or product isn't going to be made or last very long. I continue to see wayyyyy too much stuff that isn't necessary at all that's a waste of resources not only to make it, but ship and dispose of it all afterwards.
The less we all waste our resources creating and buying things we don't need, the more we can focus on what's really necessary.
So how can you adopt a more minimal lifestyle?
I've gained three key habits 🔑 that come with many benefits:
- SAVE. MORE. MONEY. 💰
- cleaner, more organized spaces
- less time to clean and organize each time
- it can help reduce stress or anxiety
- helps you get comfortable with letting go (and/or accepting change)
- reduces waste, new resources needed and related emissions
The first habit is purging. The thing about purging a good chunk of your possessions is you realize that you don't really need most of it. You may think you do because you're attaching value to it for some sentimental reason, but could you get the same with a photo of it?
Do you need books you've already read or could the library make better use?
Are there many items that you never actually use but keep lugging around?
What do you keep telling yourself you'll use, but never do?
The second is resistance. Once you've gotten rid of stuff from a purge or two, you need to build up a better resistance to ensure that you don't simply fall back into the same habits as before and take in a whole bunch of new stuff.
The third is thriftiness. Buy secondhand, fix and maintain things instead of throwing it away too soon. Then, recycle or donate your still useful things.
Life is a lot easier when you're better able to fight the trillions of dollars being spent telling you that you need whatever new widget to make you happy.
Save your money, resources and emissions.
Help save the planet.
7. ☀️ Keep it part of your daily or weekly routine
This isn't a one-time fix or action.
We need major changes to our current systems and depending on what directions we take (it may not actually change our lifestyles that much compared to a lot of fear-based rhetoric you hear - read this).
Find your rhythm, routine and passions where you can make the biggest impact with your unique strengths, talents and interests. Keep it up!
🤔 So what do we do now?
- Read up (see below).
- Talk it out.
- Make a plan.
- Take action.
Start now 🌎
📚 Recommended Reading / Viewing
• Human Flow (Documentary by Ai Weiwei on refugee crisis)
❤️ You Should Consider Following / Supporting
• Drawdown.org - make a donation!
• Dr. Jonathan Foley - Climate scientist. Executive Director, Project Drawdown
• Ed Hawkins - Climate scientist, University of Reading | IPCC AR6 Lead Author
• CarbonBrief.org - Award-winning website dedicated to analysis and fact-checking of energy policy and climate change science, with a focus on the UK.
• David Keith - Working on science & policy of climate since ~350 ppm. Technology and policy of solar geoengineering. Also, wilderness travel & environmental activism.
• Carbon Engineering Ltd. - Leading the commercialization of groundbreaking technology that removes CO₂ directly from air.