How To Be A Climate Activist In Difficult Times

In September 2019, I was on a Climate Strike in Aberystwyth and I felt full of hope. A lot has changed since then. We are living in unprecedented times where doing anything feels harder than usual. I’ve found it really difficult to continue my Climate Activism in 2020. Most days I find myself looking away from the hard news and curling into a ball, hoping it will all go away. But a quote I learned a year ago, which still holds meaning to me, makes me want to keep going:

“Climate change defeatism is just as dangerous as denialism.”  

–MARY ANNAÏSE HEGLAR

If we don’t try to make a difference in the world, then nothing will change and things will keep being bad. So we have to keep trying. But it is also essential that we look after ourselves and our needs so that we have the energy to make a difference. That is what being an activist is about.

What is a Climate Activist?

Whether you call yourself a Climate Activist, Eco Activist, or Environmental Activist, it’s all pretty similar – it means you are someone campaigning to have the issues that face our planet both recognised and acted on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are standing in the streets with a sign every Friday. Activism looks different for different people.

I was at a brilliant event a couple of years ago about Feminism in Wales and one of the speakers was an openly autistic, transgender feminist activist who talked about how we are all neurologically diverse, and that our activism should suit our needs. So she didn’t take to the streets with a megaphone because that wasn’t how she worked best – instead she educated students on activist matters and got her message out that way. So your form of activism should be what works best for you, because ultimately if you are getting stressed out by being an activist then your willpower will run out quite soon.

Activism has to be something we are passionate about in our own unique way. Here are some of the ways you can try out being a Climate Activist, specifically in this difficult time:

Individual Changes

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One of the easiest things you can do is make individual changes to live a more sustainable life. Some people are unsure about how much we should be focusing our energy on changing our own lifestyles, because what effects the climate the most is big businesses, or industries like fashion and air travel, and politics – however, I think making changes on an individual level and living more sustainable is essential for a few reasons. Firstly, we will all need to change how society works and our own lifestyles, to hit that zero carbon target. Secondly, individual changes are great as it constantly reminds us to be more eco friendly.

Every time I use my re-usable water bottle, my shower bar, or vegan recipes book, it makes me think about being more sustainable and that in turns leads me to think about activism. Plus, humans are incredibly influential, and your actions could inspire your friends and family to be more eco friendly too. All of this makes us more conscious about the environment. So think of ways you can create less waste, use less plastic, eat more plant-based, and have fun with it.

Fridays For Future

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Greta Thunberg’s School Strikes for Climate, and the whole Fridays For Future movement, has changed the way we think about the Climate Crisis. In just a few years this sixteen year old girl has pushed governments, businesses, and people in general to think more about how we need to get to net zero carbon emissions or else our world will heat up with devastating effects. She has scared us, told us our house is on fire – but all of this has been important in getting us to act. If this sort of passionate environmental movement motivates you to act, then get more involved with it – join in with Friday Climate Strikes (digitally, if it’s not Covid-19 safe in your area), look up local School Strikes For Climate/ Fridays For Future/ Extinction Rebellion groups on social media and join in with their activities. This is the kind of activism people think about when they hear of a climate activists, and it certainly does make a difference, but it isn’t the only way to go about things if this isn’t for you.

Using Social Media

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Social Media is an incredibly powerful tool to use for Climate Activism. The main thing about the climate crisis is that we can’t get complacent or forget that we need to act. So we can use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to share this message in a multitude of ways. Share petitions to encourage the government to properly invest in a green new deal. Share posts about positive climate news to help inspire your friends about the impact of good change. Share your own feelings about the environment or your journey to become an activist/ to be vegetarian or vegan/ to go zero waste – and you might just influence someone else to do it too.

Educate Yourself

Education is essential. I started up the ‘Eco Education Society’ at my university because I wanted to learn more about the environment and help others educate themselves too. When we are informed about the issues, we know exactly how we need to change. There are so many ways you can educate yourself. You can read books like the one above. You can watch Ted Talks, or Greta Thunberg’s speeches on YouTube, sign up for newsletters, or you can follow activists on Instagram or bloggers (like me…) who post useful information regularly. It’s also incredibly important you educate yourself on intersectional environmentalism by following activists who talk about race, gender, disabilities, or reading books on these topics. Racial Justice is Climate Justice. We can’t face the climate crisis without also working on equality.

Look After Your Mental Health

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One of my favourite Climate Activists, Tori Tsui, talks about how looking after your mental health is a vital part of activism. Overworking yourself and ignoring your own needs is an idea perpetuated by capitalism. So look after yourself, make time for rest, take breaks from the news, find things you enjoy, get therapy or antidepressants or whatever you need to improve your mental health. This is important now more than ever. We are all finding the pandemic so hard and strange, learning new ways to live our life, so we need to be patient with ourselves and take things one step at a time. Even if you find it hard to do anything at the moment and you are doing the bare minimum, that is better than nothing. The world needs people like you in it. So please take care of yourself.

Go Into Nature

I find going on nature walks help me in so many ways. It’s good for my health, good for my mental health, and it reminds me of how we need to protect the environment. Even if you can only get out in nature for ten minutes, really be present in that time: be mindful of your surroundings, admire the shape and colour of the leaves, listen to the birds, breathe in the air, and reinstate that connection you have to mother earth. Remind yourself what we are fighting for.

Find Your Reason For Fighting

Sometime if you’re finding it hard to be motivated to be an activist, then you might just need to remind yourself of your reason for fighting.

For me, I have several reasons that I’m a Climate Activist. I first got into activism because I wanted to protect my future. I know this might seem ‘self-centred’, but that’s okay if your reason is personal to you, as long as it gives you that fighting spirit. Ever since I was a teenager fighting depression, I had the dream that one day I would escape to a beautiful house in the countryside and be a writer. Since my girlfriend came into that picture, my dream has expanded to wanting to create a family. I was set on this fantasy at the time I first heard about Greta Thunberg’s warnings and what could happen if we don’t act. I got terrified that my future was being taken away. I was paralysed with eco anxiety for a while, but then that changed into a desire to act. To find out what I could do to try and make a change.

The other reason I do it for is maybe a bit random. I do it for animals and plants. I became a vegetarian a few years ago, and I’m working on making more vegan choices because I love animals. I love the natural world and when I am out in the forest, listening to the birds, admiring butterflies or looking at old rugged trees, it makes me want to protect them. None of them have caused the Climate Crisis. When I hear about forest fires, especially the Australian ones earlier this year and how millions of animals were killed, it makes me so sad. I almost feel guilty for being human. But instead of getting bogged down in this I make an effort to help the environment. I make a monthly donation to the Woodland Trust. I have participated in beach cleans and I sign as many petitions as I can about stopping HS2 or doing conservation work.

You need to find a reason that is personal to you. Whatever the reason, big or small, ‘self-centred’ or about other people, use this to keep you going. And once you have this, try to keep positive. You are working towards something good. I read something recently that says to challenge your fears with imagining what is the best that could happen. That is what we are working towards. A better world for everyone. And no matter what way you do that, whether it’s big changes or small, if that is your goal then you are a Climate Activist. And you are amazing.

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There are other ways to be an activist too. Let me know how you practise your activism in the comments below.

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