I'm not going to recite statistics designed to make you freak out, like the fact that it's already too hot to save Greenland because glaciers there are melting at a rate of 10,000 cubic meters of ice per second (which is about 32,000 square feet PER SECOND). No, I'm not going to do that because if you're not freaked out, you're either not paying attention or you have so much money that this environmental crisis doesn't matter to you. Instead, I'm going to tell you what you need to be doing right now to save your own beautiful butt.
Whether you believe it or not, the health of our planet affects you and those you love. We've seen from the last year that people can turn very selfish when they think they're in danger (remember the toilet paper hoarding of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic?). We are now at a point where you need to get selfish about the environment but instead of hoarding toilet paper, think bigger. Think about what's at stake and what you have to lose: your health, your family, your home, your job.
Many think that the individualism that the U.S. was founded on seems to have gotten us to this point in this environmental crisis. I say it's that individualism that will get us on the right track. We only have to look at nature to see this. Species only "help" other species when it's in their best interest or if they get some benefit from it. Most people tend to associate responsible environmental behavior with altruism, being more concerned about the collective good than oneself. But you live on this planet too. There is no other place for you to go if Earth becomes unsustainable for human life. This directly affects YOU, and there's no time to wait or stick your head in the sand.
I'm selfish, I don't want to lose my health, my family or my job therefore, I need to do something and stop thinking that climate change is some far off problem because here is a big fact: the planet will still be around if Earth continues to heat up, but will humans be able to survive?
Control Only What You Can
Thinking about the entire planet or the complex inner-workings of nature seems completely overwhelming. How can one person, or even one family, make a dent in climate change? Well, they can't AND they can. In the movie, A Bug's Life, a single ant decides that he's going to stand up to the crickets who've been dominating the entire ant hill for generations. The crickets have power but the ants have numbers. Once the ants realize they can all band together and rise up against the crickets because of their sheer numbers, they do and it makes a difference.
So, one person alone doing small things to impact the environment does little, if anything. But billions of people doing small things will make a difference. You can't tackle this problem on a global level, but you can be aware of your actions and how those affect your environment. Just pick something and do it consistently. Here's a quick list of things ordinary people like you and me can do:
1. Eat less factory-farmed meat.
You do NOT have to eat bark or become a vegan to have an impact. Just cut meat out of one meal each week. And guess what? Doing this will benefit YOUR HEALTH. It's a win, win.
2. Stop buying bottled water.
There are so many alternatives available today for you to keep your water in instead of buying bottled water. And once again...this is better for YOUR HEALTH. We know that plastic from the bottle leeches into the water and you're essentially drinking that plastic. So do it for YOU!
3. Plant a tree.
If everyone in the U.S. went to Home Depot, bought a tree, planted it, nurtured it, that tree would absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. By the time that tree reaches 40 years old, This means it will absorb approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide. Think about the population of the U.S. and then think about how much carbon dioxide we could offset if every household in the U.S. planted only one tree.
4. Read and think for yourself.
The health of the planet is the single most important thing to your survival. Learn about it as much as you can and then discern between legitimate news sources and propaganda developed by special interests. This will help you ensure that your understanding of climate change and the environment is based on facts and not manipulation.
5. Wash your clothes in cool water.
Save energy by washing your clothes in cool water. Most of the energy used in doing a load of laundry comes from warming the water itself.
Here are more little things you can do that make a big difference.
Write the Future You Want
Hope can be found even in the worst situation. The wonderful, scary thing is that the future is still unknown. YOU can create the future of our planet that YOU want. We all can. What future do you want for yourself and your family? Do you want to deal with increasingly extreme weather (heat, cold, fires, drought)? Do you want to have to manage life with more pandemics? Do you want to pay more for energy, gas, or food?
Right now we have an incredible opportunity in front of us to make our future whatever we want. I don't know about you, but I'd like to live in a future where I don't have to worry about my house going up in flames every year because of drought and heat. I'd like to know that my kids are going to enjoy their lives without having to be concerned about whether the planet will be able to support them. Let's take this opportunity before it's gone.
It's not time to wallow in depression or to freeze in anxiety. It's time to get selfish.