When Climate Inaction Hurts (and What You Can Do)

by | Environment

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Today’s article is about the current global climate, and why any one person’s inaction in the face of this situation hurts. We will also discuss a few ways that you can take action.

Every one person’s actions make a difference. Even globally, everything begins on a local scale, with local action.

We Talk About Climate Action… But What About Inaction?

With climate activism today, there is a lot of talk about the need for climate action. This is true, and the more people who speak out on this subject, the better. The problem is this is only likely to reach the people who are already open to taking action on the climate.

This does not address those who are inactive, neutral, or ambivalent. Inaction is a choice just as much as action. The quiet scrolling away from a post on the current, ongoing climate crisis still speaks volumes.

Is Inaction Just as Bad as Ignorance?

In many ways, inaction is worse than ignorance. Ultimately, ignorance of an issue is the result of misinformation or a lack of information to begin with. In other words, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Inaction, however, is explicitly stating that you do know, and you are deliberating choosing not to act. Even if you have only a modicum of understanding about what is going on, it becomes a moral responsibility to respond – often by learning more and acting upon that new knowledge.

A Scenario of Inaction

If someone in front of you falls in the street and cries out for help, what do you do?

Imagine it’s a busy street with distracted drivers. You’re the only other one to help, and there’s just enough time to do so. Most people would reach out and help that person up – but you could stand by and let the event occur.

That inaction, or lack of action, however, places you as an active participant in the event. It is still inherently a choice you made not to act.

You could deflect the blame and say that the driver is solely responsible for the outcome, which is a common tactic. That isn’t true, however, as there’s not always just one individual at fault for an outcome; you would be just as at fault for having the option to help and choosing not to. We could even remove the driver, and say it was automated machinery.

A Scenario of Ignorance

Let’s assume we have the same scenario as we discussed above. Someone falls into a busy roadway, but they don’t cry out for help.

Ignorance is different in that, if you had your back turned and you were unaware of the event, you are not making a choice either way, and you can’t help that you did not know.

Many people are comfortable in ignorance, as it provides them with an easy way to diffuse their responsibility of the situation.

Herein lies the problem, however, as the outcome of the situation is the same regardless. Ignorance did not change the danger the other person faced and had the same outcome as it did with inaction.

Changing the Analogy

Now, let’s imagine that this person falling into the roadway affected everything around them, putting everyone else in danger as well.

Wouldn’t you want to stay vigilant of anyone falling into the roadway, and take action?

So why aren’t we?

With Co2 emissions and methane levels rising due to the burning of fossil fuels, increased deforestation, and increase unsustainable agricultural practices, this is a very real and very dangerous scenario for all of us.

Ultimately, these sound like issues we cannot reach, but it will affect us all, as it will spark food scarcity, more serious weather events, widespread outbreaks of new ailments, unpredictable growing seasons, and mass extinctions as ecosystems are thrown off balance.

When Action is Exhausting

Enough with the analogies, for now. It’s not quite such a black-and-white scenario, there’s a whole spectrum of color to consider in daily life.

It can feel overwhelming to make up your mind on the best course of action, especially in a world where there’s competitive sources trying to tell you what to believe and who to believe and they’re all confusing.

Let’s not forget that it’s been a long day, and you’re really tired from working to make sure you can keep food on the table and a roof over your head, even though it always feels like you’re just barely keeping your head above water while doing so.

Beyond that, there’s a million different “dire events” that pop up on the television screen or your newsfeed every day, that you might just shut it all out to take care of your own mental health.

It feels exhausting to take action – yet another thing vying for your attention at the end of a long day – and what can you really do about it anyway?

Unfortunately, this uncomfortable place is exactly where most of us are meant to be, so we make less noise about issues that affect us.

Bear with me for a second… While I’m writing about climate action, this can just as easily apply to other political issues. Since the dawn of society, there’s always been someone on top making the decisions, and someone on bottom to run the machine.

What about when that machine starts to break down, and everyone’s put in danger? Well, there’s no reason for those on top to stop when it’s still generating money (read: power.)

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to fight for our voice and ability to live comfortably without fear. Yes, that comfortable lifestyle isn’t here yet, and it might look different without burning so much Co2, but we’re not comfortable now – so why are we making the choice to live uncomfortably?

With so many of us living with climate-related mental health problems, not to mention the effects inaction has on our (and other species’) future, it’s a wonder why we aren’t treating this as the ultimate form of self care.

Climate Inaction as a Result of Fear or Anxiety

Inaction is not always a result of a conscious decision, but of others discouraging our action.

As social creatures, we are inclined to do what will put us in a better social light. If our peers and surrounding social group don’t approve of our decisions and actions, whether it’s friends, popular local opinions, or even family, it can be discouraging to say the least.

Worse still, it can feel like the decisions we make, and the feelings we have on a subject, are somehow wrong, leading to a feeling of isolation and telling ourselves that just maybe the problem isn’t as bad as we think it is.

After all, if no one around you is focused on such a big problem, is it really that bad?

Or is everyone else just ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away?

Alternately, these people are following what they believe – that it’s not a problem to begin with, and that scientists are liars and political agendas are being pushed in for a new era of technology or control, or whatever their fears happen to be.

(Unfortunately, it’s the lack of profitability and infrastructure in these renewable spaces that is preventing us from moving completely away from fossil fuels. It is the lack of political visibility that gets sustainable policies enacted. It’s the loss of revenue from removing pesticides that keeps companies encouraging the use of pollutants that make us sick and drive up the rate of greenhouse gasses produced.  It’s really quite an uphill battle, and we have generations of data showing that temperatures are climbing due to our current lifestyle.)

As a social creature, it’s important to find a support system that provides the space necessary to discuss these topics, encouraging you to keep taking action.

In other words: seek out the peers you need to live in a way that makes you feel proud of your actions and most fulfilled. Whether this is regarding the climate, or another aspect of your life. 

How Do I Act on Climate Change?

There are several ways you can act on climate change as an individual, everyday citizen.

Taking action doesn’t always involve spending money, and taking action doesn’t always involve your time, but it does require that you address and do something about your current level of inaction. Below are just some of these ways.

Leave a comment: what is one of the ways you are currently addressing climate change locally? Even if it’s small, it can be an inspiration to others.

Educate Yourself

Take the time to read resources, take a look at peer-reviewed studies, and try to understand the data going back and forth. Read books (or listen to audiobooks) on the subject and think about what it means to you, and how it will affect you. Overall, taking your personal education on the climate crisis into your own hands will always be better than simply relying on the opinions and thoughts of one source. You’ll be surprised at just how fun it can be to keep learning.

Vote for Change

Yup! For most of us politics is mind-numbingly boring, and chances are, it’s a quick way to stress yourself out. But, I’m not talking about the dramatized urgency of the latest news story on the television, I’m talking about the quieter politics that happens in your hometown and across your state.

It can feel like a chore to vote in these elections, but understanding who supports what bills allows you to do two things:

  • Vote with who supports the bills and policies you want to see enacted.
  • Reach out to and put pressure on your representatives to support bills that will have a positive impact on the climate, and to drop support for bills that would have a negative impact.

This can sound like an exercise in futility for some people, but each and every person makes an impact. With enough people, real change can happen.

Understand Where Your Money Goes

Here’s where practicality comes into play for many people: the supermarket. When shopping, you’re looking for the best deals so you can put enough food on the table every week. Unfortunately, many of these brands – or even the places that you shop – are politically involved. Your money going through those corporations and businesses encourages them to keep funding certain policies in the political landscape.

To add to the confusion, major companies often acquire or own some of the brand names you’re used to buying, even if they’re competing brands, and even if it’s not obvious when you make a purchase.

With a little effort, you can learn what policies these companies and brands support so you can make better decisions with your monetary power.

Invest in Solutions Where Possible

You can invest in the solutions you believe will help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses and Co2. Investing, in the traditional sense, works well in supporting the companies and technologies that are truly trying to make a difference.

Investing in other ways, such as putting in volunteer time, energy, or giving feedback to those in the beginning stages of their solution is also a great way to further new technology.

There is no perfect solution in a world where we have already developed so much land and expanded our population so greatly; a utopia does not exist. But, we can work towards solving the basic problems we currently face.

Support Others Taking Action

The internet provides us with a widespread source of communication. Fortunately – and unfortunately – it also gives us the ability to micromanage our data insights, seeing how many people saw a certain post, how many people shared it, and what their feedback was.

When someone is trying to take action, it can be important to them to see positive feedback on these posts. Replying with a positive comment, liking the post, or even sharing/retweeting/reblogging it, whatever the lingo for your platform of choice, can make a huge difference and help them reach a wider audience.

Furthermore, it encourages them to continue taking action online, even if they receive negative feedback from a few people here and there.

A little positivity and kindness goes a long way in advocating for change.

Refuse To Stay Quiet – Start Making Noise

Even as an everyday person, you have a certain amount of sway and power on the internet. Even your ability to reach new people with the use of a hashtag is a wild and amazing facet of our current world. It also means that we have the ability – and responsibility – to utilize that reach to promote awareness of climate issues and other ways our world is affected.

You have a voice.

Make it heard.

We can see a prime example of how effective this is by looking back at social media activism in 2020 where individuals gathered together to create support for issues that were deeply important to them. Most popularly, the issues of race equality and support of black-owned businesses grew widespread activism on an international scale (win!) which social media played a huge role in, and is partly responsible for changing significant threads of our society.

So why can’t we do something similar about the climate?

There’s no good reason not to.


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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.

1 Comment

  1. Teagan

    Saved as a favorite, I love your site!


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