Let’s not pivot from oblivious to helpless
More people are realizing that climate change will affect them personally, not just people they don’t know who live far away (“Climate disasters mount; so, too, our anxiety,” Page A1, Aug. 2). The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reveals 10 percent of Americans are dismissive of climate change, 54 percent are concerned or alarmed. Let’s not pivot from obliviousness (it won’t affect me) to helplessness (it feels like an individual has no agency.) Humankind is the one factor in the climate crisis that does have agency. We know the cause: uncontrolled dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We know the solution: rapidly reduce emissions, which is achievable with technologies and policies that exist today. New solutions are being developed daily. In just one day’s paper, we see “cool paving” to reduce heat islands (“Solutions to extreme heat can be found in our streets,” Opinion, Aug. 3) and a floating wetland in the Charles (“Floating wetland helps battle ‘dirty water stigma,’” Metro). The government can increase incentives to switch to nonpolluting technologies and establish disincentives (carbon pricing) that will reduce fossil fuel consumption. So, please, let’s drop the doom. Let’s approach climate realistically, as a huge challenge, but one that we can and must meet. Action is the antidote to despair.
Actions you can take
Climate disasters are real, and people are right to feel anxious. But it’s not true, as one respondent said, that “an individual has no agency.” In fact, there are many actions we can take to make a difference:
▪ Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation.
▪ If you must drive, buy a more efficient vehicle (electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid).
▪ Take advantage of an energy audit for your home and sign up for renewable energy, if it’s available.
▪ Eat sustainably: Buy food grown locally and organically, and eat less (or no) meat.
▪ Compost food scraps and urge your town to require composting, as the state of Vermont has done.
▪ Demand that your city, town, or retirement accounts divest from fossil fuels.
▪ Insist that those who represent you at state and local levels work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
▪ Most important: Support candidates for local, state, and national office who are committed to actions that will reduce CO2 emissions while working for environmental justice.
Taking any one of these actions could ease your anxiety while helping our fragile climate.
Apply pressure to your local elected representatives
Symptoms of climate disruption — storms and floods, wildfires, and toxic air — are closing in on us this summer like never before. Anxiety, as Beth Teitell notes, is a normal response but not a useful one. What to do? Why not try to become change agents right here in Massachusetts, where we can make a difference?
Contact your state legislators. Tell them you want to see progress right now, in this current session, on a range of issues: 100 percent clean electricity, first of all; then support for electric vehicles, funding for home insulation, fees on fossil fuels, and much more. Ask your representatives how they propose to bring the Commonwealth to carbon neutrality before the end of this decade, and how we can build environmental justice at the same time in communities that have carried the burden of the old economy for years. Ask your legislators to make a clear, strong commitment, and let them know you will be looking for follow-through.
We can make Massachusetts a model for the nation, and our nation has the leverage to transform the global economy. It starts with a phone call, an e-mail, a text. Turn your anxiety into agency.
Organizing as a key to change
It was great to see the front-page article about climate-induced anxiety. In a follow-up, I hope the Globe will consider addressing what is considered to be the most powerful treatment for climate anxiety and grief, and that is providing people with a sense of agency that they can do something to address the problem, through action. That is what the organization Mothers Out Front does. With 22 teams of moms across Massachusetts, we drive campaigns at the local and state levels to address the climate crisis. Examples include getting high-emitting gas leaks fixed, passing community-choice energy programs, banning gas hookups in new construction, creating green rooftop gardens on municipal buildings, and pushing for the passage of statewide legislation. By working together, both in small groups and by coming together in mass action, our moms are making a difference and helping to create the world we want for our kids.
Cofounder and chair
Mothers Out Front
The planet can’t sustain growing population
Beth Teitell’s article ends with this quote from Nicole Bardasz: “I believe the planet is doomed . . . but I need to choose to believe that is not true and it is possible for us to mobilize and stop this somehow.’’ Every day there is another article about climate change, but I see no mention of the growing world population. It will be very hard to defeat climate change when the world population keeps rising. The planet can be saved from doom if nations get realistic and perform strategic planning around population growth.
Your article on climate anxiety was spot-on. It’s arguably the only sane response people can have when they realize that we are killing our own planet. In addition to climate anxiety leading to higher rates of suicide and feelings of helplessness, it seems likely that the falling birth rate in the United States could also be related. My twentysomething offspring are not planning on having children, in part because of the grim reality of climate chaos.
The only way I can deal with my own anxiety is to act. I recommend volunteering with an organization like 350.org, the Union of Concerned Scientists, or The Climate Reality Project.
Policies must change along with individual behavior
Brava to Renée Loth (“Rain check: The lessons of July’s weather,” Opinion, July 30): She not only connects our recent rain to climate change (a connection too seldom made by the media), but she also goes a step further and urges action.
Regrettably, she then links to a list of actions people can take — but they are almost entirely individual actions. The fossil fuel companies have pointed us toward our individual behavior — changing the lightbulbs — to distract people from the actions they don’t want us to take: pushing for changes in policy.
The best thing anyone can do for the climate is to join, or create, an organization that pushes for changing the system. Look for 350 Massachusetts, Stop the Money Pipeline, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Mothers Out Front — all will join your voice with others to make the big changes we need.