My Climate Action Commitment this Holiday Season
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Join me in upping your commitment to care for the planet.
Each year I think about how to make my holidays more climate friendly. In a blog post a few years ago, I shared excerpts from a letter I wrote to my family about this. In it, I outlined some specific eco-friendly holiday practices and asked for experiences instead of material gifts. While I am still doing all those things, this year I am feeling more urgent about the climate crisis we are in. I am re-realizing that even if everyone engaged in holiday climate actions, we wouldn’t make enough of a dent to stop the current trajectory of global emissions.
As UN Secretary General Guterres said during his opening address at the 2022 global climate conference, COP 27, we are currently losing “the fight of our lives… And, our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”
Recent reports, like the UN Emissions Gap Report 2022 and the State of Climate Action 2022 compiled by WRI and Bezos Earth Fund, show that across 40 key sectors there has been little progress towards the reduction of emissions by 2030 by governments. The world’s largest companies are also remiss in taking climate action. A recent Accenture report remarked that fewer than 670 of the 2000 large companies surveyed have publicly stated net-zero targets, and 93% of those that do, “will fail to achieve their goals if they don’t at least double the pace of emissions reduction by 2030.” And to top it off, new gas and oil projects are still being built, and the populations of the global north continue their over-consumptive lifestyles. What this means is, as Sarah Kaplan writes in a recent Washington Post article, the planet may be soon approaching and surpassing a safe warming “threshold that scientists say will lead to the collapse of ecosystems, escalating extreme weather and widespread hunger and disease.” Rob Jackson, a climate scientist at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project whom Kaplan quotes in the above article, chalks up the lackluster global action on limiting emissions to entrenched interests, shortsighted leaders, and human apathy.
By this point in the post, you might wonder what kind of holiday message this is and if there is any hope left. While I don’t want you feeling discouraged, I want the urgent reality of our situation to inspire us to take enough significant action to create a thriving world for all life, for many generations to come. Personally, I am still hopeful we can do this. From where I stand, many people care about life on the planet. I think it’s not apathy, but more a lack of time and information. We rarely know what to do, amid working and taking care of our families, to make a real difference. We are also all creatures of habit. It’s hard to change individual behavior when the infrastructure and systems around us support the status quo and overconsumption of resources. This is why it’s so important to come together with other like-minded people to work to change the systems that drive what we do and how we do it. And it’s why during this holiday season’s time of giving I am committing to engaging more actively with climate action groups in the coming year. When my grandchildren are grown and ask what I did for the world and planet when I had the chance, I want to be able to respond that I took as much significant action as I could.
This year, as my holiday gift, I am committing to engage with three groups in the coming year. Each one captures my interest for different reasons.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). I want to join a local group working on climate action in my community and I am impressed with the coordinating role this organization plays in taking on local systemic change, climate justice, and building a local grassroots movement. I plan on attending some member meetings and joining some of the local campaigns they organize. Third Act. Bill McKibben, the well-known climate advocate, started this organization for “Americans over the age of sixty determined to change the world for the better.” Since I am in that age category, I would like to join my peers, the fastest growing part of the population, in using our life experiences, skills and resources to stop the financing of fossil fuels. I will join one of their working groups.
The Living Lab for Equitable Climate Action at WRI. I recently learned about the work of The Living Lab (TLL) during a meeting at WRI. With my background in organizational behavior, I am intrigued by their focus on using “behavioral research to drive equitable, climate-friendly living at a population scale.” They are identifying the most impactful behavior-informed policy and structural reforms to drive behavior changes in the transport, energy, and food sectors in Mexico, India, and the United States. For instance, instead of creating a communication campaign to reduce food waste through individual composting, they are looking at how a municipal composting program makes behavior change easier and accessible to everyone. I have already spoken with the director of TLL and will provide feedback on one of their projects.
My Invitation to You
During this holiday season, I invite you to think about upping your commitment to climate action as a gift to the world. What climate action group(s) might you join in the coming year and share your skills with? There are many groups working on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and advancing climate solutions from which to choose. I encourage you to find one that appeals to you. I particularly recommend finding a group working in your local area. That way, you can connect with others more easily and see the impact of your efforts in your community. Here is an initial list of organizations to get you started (listed alphabetically):
As you think about what group is a good fit for you, remember during this season of hope and joy that we keep hope alive through our action in the face of very challenging situations. As Paul Polman, former head of Unilever, in the lead up to COP27 wrote, “… try tempering your realism with hope. This is a battle in which humanity still has everything to play for, and one we dare not lose.”
What collaborative action will you take to add to the hope of future generations?
If you want more inspiration, check out this post, The Most Important Climate Actions You Can Take Now: 10 ways to step up your collective effort.
Before I wish you a happy rest of the year, I also want to reiterate that while climate action needs to happen collaboratively, the individual actions you take are still worthwhile. When more and more of us change how we live, the aggregated impact will help keep the Earth habitable.
If you are looking for more ways to take individual climate action, check out the many posts on my website, Climate Action for Everyday People. This article in the Washington Post also outlines 10 places to start, including:
1. Create less food waste: Read more ideas for how to reduce food waste.
2. Shop sustainably by buying less: Read more about how to decide if a product is good for the planet
3. Protect our forests: Read more about what you can do to protect the forests
4. Weatherize your home: Read more tips on how to weatherize your home
5. Learn about the link between climate change and racial equity: Read more about how climate change and racial justice go hand-in-hand
6. Pass it on: Educating your peers is a great way to multiply your efforts. Share this post with your friends and family and help them take steps to make their lives a little more climate friendly.
I wish you all the happiest of holidays. May we all contribute to a brighter future.