I am going to say it: People who get climate change, kudos to you. But if you do nothing you are almost as paralyzing to the problem as the climate deniers.
We cannot continue business as usual, or there will be no business as usual. We have about 10 years to turn this climate train around before we are locked into run-away global heating that will bludgeon the basics of human civilization — how we produce our food, whether we have enough water, where we are able to live and whether we have daily security for ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation.
I am thus no longer concerned about the full-blown deniers. They have made themselves as irrelevant as 21st century flat-earthers. As a climate advocate, I am redirecting my attention to the science-embracing 70% of our nation that comprehends climate change is real, it is here and it is a serious problem — but they cling to their daily routines, throw their hands up in despair or expect other people to take care of the problem. Now, I am also going to say this: Most of you reading this fall into that category. However, I am going to add: We need you! In fact, we cannot do it without you!
I am not talking about recycling, being idle-free or using energy-efficient light bulbs. You probably already do that. I am talking about passionately standing up for the people and places you love, who will inevitably be hit — and hit hard — by the impacts of climate change, whether in the form of Dantesque infernos, supercharged hurricanes, biblical flooding, droughts, heat waves or from the mass migration of desperate people escaping places hit by climate chaos.
So what must we do? How do we do it?
A researcher at Harvard, Erica Chenoweth, mapped out social movements of the 20th and 21st centuries and looked for the commonalities in successful movements. She found that in all cases, if a minimum of 3.5% of the population engaged in sustained non-violent protest, they succeeded overall in having their demands met. In the United States, 3.5% is 11 million people. That is all we need. Will you be part of this essential 11 million? Will you join the global youth climate strike on Friday that is taking place in nearly every country in the world? Will you do it again and again? Our children are desperate for adults who care, who see the house is on fire and are acting like this is the emergency that it is.
In addition to being in solidarity with the largest strike in history, you are needed to spread the word, to call forth the urgency. Talking to people in your social sphere about climate change is one of the most critical things you can do on a daily basis. It is far more important than recycling at this crucial juncture in history. Of course, you can recycle, too, but if you think that is all you need to do your part, you are sadly mistaken.
Talk to your co-workers, your neighbors, your family, your barber, your students, your teachers, your coach, your pastor, your doctor, etc., about the possibility of a Green New Deal that transitions us to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and phases out dirty fossil fuels through a just and equitable transition creating millions of good jobs. Talk about a future where Salt Lake City regularly has clean air. Talk about saving the 1 million species currently on the chopping block of extinction. Talk about your dreams for your children and how those dreams are in peril if our climate does not stabilize.
Write to your legislators, write op-eds, show-up at rallies, support the global youth movement — Fridays for Future — that is striking from school every Friday. Donate your time or money to the organizations doing this hard but essential work such as Utah Moms for Clean Air, the Extinction Rebellion, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, 350.org, Moms Clean Air Force, Public Citizen and Our Kids’ Climate.
So, will you stand up for the people and places you love? The time is now. Showing up on Friday is the most important action you can take this month for the climate. Be there. Do it as an act of love.
So, will you stand up for the people and places you love? The time is now. Showing up at noon Friday at the Salt Lake City-County Building to march to the Capitol is the most important action you can take this month for the climate. Be there. Do it as an act of love.
Cherise Udell is the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air.