7 ways you can help combat the climate crisis following the global strike
So you went to the strike, now what? Here's how you can keep fighting for climate justice.
Photo by Lincoln Lute.
Last Friday, millions of young people around the world made history as they took part in the global Youth Climate Strike. While the crowd sizes are still being determined, it is estimated nearly 4 million people in over 150 countries participated in the strikes, making it likely the largest climate strike ever.
The strike demanded an end to the age of fossil fuels and declared boldly that “the climate crisis won’t wait, so neither will we.” For young people, the existential dread of growing up in a world that is rapidly experiencing the effects of the climate crisis is not a distant future, it is our reality. As the United Nations warned last year, we have less than 11 years to limit the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Whether the strike last week was your first protest or your 50th, the movement to press for climate justice extends far beyond this single strike. As Greta Thunberg, who led the climate strike said: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
While combating the climate crisis may be a fight for our future, it’s the actions we take today that will make a difference. Here are some steps you can take to continue to push for change.
Young people have historically low trust levels in government. Yet, regardless of your political beliefs, the only way to change the system is to participate and demand change. Young people vote at significantly lower levels than their older peers. While the 2018 midterm election displayed some positive momentum with the highest youth voter turnout in the past 25 years at 31 percent, this still means the vast majority of young people (69 percent) stayed home. Imagine how different the outcomes of our elections would be if young people showed up?
If you are over 18, register to vote and sign up for election reminders! Every election provides an opportunity to vote for candidates who will fight for climate justice from school board members who can ban styrofoam at lunch to your senator who can cast pivotal votes on climate legislation in Washington. You can also use tools like the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard which shows you where you representation stands on environmental issues. Don’t see any candidates fighting to combat climate change? Consider running yourself.
If you are under 18, you can also still play a huge role (also if you’re 16 or 17, in some states you can pre-register to vote!). Urge older friends and family in your life to vote and encourage civic engagement at your school by holding voter registration drives.
Make small changes
While the climate crisis may feel massive in scope, there are many small, tangible things that you can do to help. One direct way you can help is to cut plastic from your life as much as possible. It is estimated that enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times. And globally, humans buy one million plastic bottles per minute—91 percent of which are not recycled. Buy a reusable water bottle and bring a reusable tote bag (most grocery stores also sell these if you forget and in the long term, you will save money through these investments). And if you do use plastic, always put it in the recycling bin.
Check your electricity usage, and if possible, use energy-efficient light bulbs and make sure to turn off the lights when you leave a room. When getting ready in the morning, limit your water consumption by taking shorter showers and turn off the water when your brush your teeth (Also a bonus if you purchase an eco-friendly toothbrush and products which you can fill in reusable containers!).
There are hundreds of other small daily changes you can make in addition to these. If every person made these changes, the impact would be massive.
Check your wallet
“Bills, Bills, Bills” are way better when you are able to use them as currency to support your beliefs. Whenever possible, shift your buying practices. Try to buy things second-hand (who doesn’t like a good thrifted find?) to reduce packaging materials.
Shop local. This helps support small and local businesses while also reducing the pollution that comes with transporting goods longer distances. Whenever possible, try and support environmentally-friendly companies and stop supporting companies or candidates that accept money from the fossil fuel industry and other interests that are detrimental to our climate. If you are able to, you can also show your support by donating to organizations that are doing work to protect our big blue planet.
Knowledge = power. There are a ton of ways to inform yourself about climate change and ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. During your next Netflix binge, take a look at the documentaries section and dive into one of the climate-focused documentaries that are available online and on TV (my personal recommendation is Racing Extinction). Check your local library or book stores and pick up a book (my personal recommendation is The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells). Also let Google be your knowledgeable best friend. Research and check your sources so the next time you’re asked about why you support taking action on climate, you can show them the receipts of why they should care too.
Ensure that your climate activism is intersectional and includes the respect of indigenous voices, lands, and sovereignty. Effective environmental justice must acknowledge the connections to racial justice. According to the NAACP, race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country. So when sharing information with others, make sure to include the disproportionate impact the climate crisis has on communities of color and low income communities around the world.
Limit your meat consumption
Animal agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of rainforest destruction and livestock and their byproducts account for 51 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Moreover, a recent special report on climate change and land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that plant-based diets provide a substantive opportunity for humans to mitigate climate change.
Almost one-third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products, so making small dietary changes can go a long way. For example, the meat and dairy industry uses one-third of the Earth’s fresh water and a dairy cow will drink on average 30 gallons of water a day and one hamburger uses the equivalent of 660 gallons of water. To put that in perspective, that is the same amount as two months of showering.
When it comes to monetary concerns, there are still disparities in terms of environmental injustice and equitable food access, but switching to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can often actually help you save money. As The Atlantic wrote, this simple, less costly change could “could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals” and it is as simple as realizing that our choices as consumers have the direct ability to help our climate.
Continue the conversation
Friday’s strike showed the power of youth voices to bring a necessary spotlight on climate. Continue the conversation in your community. Writing is a powerful way to do this. Write for your school newspaper or a letter to the editor in your local paper bringing attention to why you care about this issue. Write or contact your elected officials. Share articles and calls to action (like this article!) with your circles on social media. Make sure to continue the momentum and remind people that the climate crisis is not going away through conversations and organizing both online and IRL.
Join the movement
If you are a student, look around and see what your school and community could be doing better. Does every classroom have a recycling bin? Are the stores in your community still using plastic straws and bags? Don’t wait for someone else to ignite change, spearhead it yourself. Start a club or join one of the partners organizations that helped organize the youth climate strike. The biggest obstacle to tackling climate is complacency.