To embrace climate optimism, begin with individual action | Opinion – Tennessean
From a “code red for humanity” to the World Meteorological Organization’s May 18 State of the Global Climate report, the United Nations’ calamitous warnings contain a surprisingly common thread — hope. There is a 99% scientific consensus that the crisis is real and primarily caused by our energy choices from burning fossil fuels. Yet all the technology to solve the climate crisis exists. We know what to do, and it’s not too late.
Gen Z (born between 1997-2012) is more interested in climate solutions than debating whether climate change exists, because they see its impacts. In a September 2021 global survey of young people ages 16 to 25, one out of four said they don’t want to have children because of global warming. An April poll conducted by 4-H (yes, that 4-H) showed 84% of students ages 13-18 are worried about climate change’s impact on their future. We can’t leave it to them to solve this crisis, because we are running out of time. Baby boomers, Gen X and millennials must team up with Gen Z.
Experts agree that we need to adopt large-scale renewable energy, primarily wind and solar, as fast as possible, and then electrify everything to run on that clean energy. Next, we must focus research on building materials and transportation, double down on conservation and efficiency, then support nature-based carbon sinks like conserving soil, planting mangroves and protecting forests. We know the answers.
These climate solutions have widespread appeal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar and wind are two of the fastest-growing job markets. Major institutions and are divesting from fossil fuels. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a rule requiring climate-risk disclosures. New startups based in “conscious capitalism” are promoting regenerative agriculture, clean energy, sustainable consumer brands and alternatives to plastics.
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The climate renaissance is here, and it’s exciting, bold and beautiful. It’s rooted in the fact that we can leave the planet better, not just stop global warming. Think rooftop gardens, electric cars, green buildings, ample parks, healthy soil and food — and clean air, clean water and clean energy for all. It’s time to think beyond our age and get excited about the legacy we can leave the next generation.
But how can anyone be optimistic given the political rancor we witness daily? Because we have no other choice. Extreme weather events will rock the foundation of who we are and how we show up for each other. In many communities, they already have.
Of course, we need global policy and market solutions, but they don’t happen without individual action. That’s why YOU matter in climate action. A daily practice of sustainability — whether it’s calling of a member of Congress, walking in nature or choosing a more sustainable product — can create the cultural shift we need. By organizing locally to demand change from the brands we buy and leaders we vote for, the politics will follow. Policy often comes late.
We’ve done big things before. We repaired the ozone hole, cleaned up the Cuyahoga River after it caught fire, and saved iconic species like the grizzly bear, the bald eagle and the American bison. Let’s create space to listen to members of Gen Z but also share the progress we’ve witnessed. Then commit to taking action with them. If you aren’t sure where to begin, take the Service Superpower Assessment to identify your strengths in service and how to apply them to climate action. A vibrant, sustainable future is within reach, but it depends on all of us. Climate optimism flows from action.
Heather White, a seventh-generation Tennessean, is the founder of OneGreenThing.org and author of “One Green Thing: Discover Your Hidden Power to Help Save the Planet.” A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, she lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her family.