Climate change has changed. As we commemorate Earth Day (April 22nd) this month, it’s the perfect time to consider why that matters, and what we can do about it.
Human-caused climate change, also known as global warming, is happening, according to 97 percent of climate scientists. That hasn’t changed.
But the public perceptions—and especially the political perceptions—of climate change are shifting. The effects and risks, regionally and globally, appear to have increased as well.
Here are 10 ways we can respond, from general to specific:
- Decide where you stand. Because climate change isn’t as visible and obvious as other pressing social concerns, we tend to forget about it. We may even believe it’s not a real problem, or that there’s nothing we can do about it. But if we do feel that way, we should explore why, and we should own those beliefs. We also should consider the consequences for future generations if our generation doesn’t make progress reducing climate change.
- Make it fun. Whatever you do—from volunteering, to activities in your own life to reduce climate change impacts—you can have more fun than “the other guys” (the forces trying to undo energy efficiency standards and other environmental protections). As Seattle-based author and Citizen University founder Eric Liu says, “We can ‘out-joy’ them.”
- Have a little senior momentum. Not “senior moment”—”senior momentum”! Age has never had less of an effect on our potential for action. If you believe you can make a difference, you can. As you get older, tie in your efforts to reduce climate change with efforts to improve your own health. For example, drive less and walk or bike more. Eat more healthy food that you grow in your own garden.
- Put your feet down. And march! On Earth Day this year, Saturday, April 22, another big march will be held in downtown Seattle—the March for Science. Although details may not be announced until close to the event, it appears likely thousands of people will show up to support … science! What a perfect Earth Day tie-in.
- STEM the tide and share. Speaking of science, there’s plenty of room for seniors and others to support the growing STEM movement. That term didn’t even exist when most of us were kids, but now STEM education—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—has become a force. It’s an especially potent, potential world-changer for young girls, who didn’t used to be encouraged to get into those fields. If you have a science background, you can contribute. It might be too late to volunteer to help with spring school science fairs this year, but keep that in mind for next year. And the many kids’ STEM summer camps in the Seattle area this year may also need volunteers.
Fix and save. At King County’s free community repair events, held all over King County outside Seattle, you can bring in small household items and clothing and we’ll try to fix them! These fun events keep stuff out of the landfill, conserve resources and reduce global warming. We’ll have three in April, including our first Earth Day Repair Fair in White Center Saturday, April 22. This event will also include entertainment and a workshop on DIY lamp repair presented by McLendon Hardware.
- Help seekers making a new life. The most immediate climate change impacts are global. Entire nations are already being affected by rising seas, droughts, extreme weather and more. In Somalia, for example, more than six million people are experiencing extreme hunger or food insecurity due to a severe drought exacerbated by climate change. By helping and supporting refugees and immigrants here in King County, we can often indirectly assist their families and other immigrants and refugees around the world.
- Plant local seeds. Volunteer with King County Parks or other King County agencies. In Seattle, enviro volunteer opportunities also abound.
- Play politics. Register to vote if you’re not already registered, and encourage others to register. Local elected officials make a difference too! More than 330 positions are up for election this year in King County, including Seattle’s mayor and the King County executive. Or run for office yourself! For political offices in King County, the deadline for filing to run in 2017 is May 19.
- Build the future. When voting, or with citizen activism in other ways, we can all support resilience. Climate resilience means building and improving infrastructure, from bridges to transit systems to wastewater treatment plants, to withstand the expected worsening effects of climate change. Those effects might include heavier rainfall, flooding and droughts. And let’s not just focus on local and regional resilience. Better and stronger infrastructure is needed all over the world.
Keep smiling, and keep moving ahead! Thanks for everything you do for Earth Day and all year around.
Contributor Tom Watson is the King County EcoConsumer, a project manager for King County’s Recycling and Environmental Services. Questions or comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 206-477-4481, or visit www.KCecoconsumer.com.