Ever wonder what our most popular post of all time is here at UNdertheC? It’s this piece which is essentially a doom and gloom piece I wrote about what would happen to the world if the oceans “died.” In other words, this is what will happen if we do not change our ways, culture, decisions, business, economy, and values to be more sustainable.
After a Trump victory earlier this week it is easy to feel defeated in in the arena of climate change and climate action. It is well accepted fact that human-induced climate change is an international threat to our natural resources that can wreak havoc on human society for years to come, unless we make change now. Ideally we would invest in sustainability and renewables and aim to be completely free of carbon emissions and fossil-fuel reliance as soon as possible. There are many articles from various news sources, such as Vox, NY Times, The Verge, and Time discussing how bad a Trump presidency (and conservative majority in congress and the supreme court) will be for climate and science in general. You can read those yourself. I’m here to talk about what YOU can do to make positive progress on this (and other) issue (s) right now and over the next 4-8 years. Once your anger, depression, frustration, and/or crippling sadness has passed you by it is time to pick yourself up and start fighting harder for your causes. If the future of oceans, climate, food availability, clean/ fresh water, and our society as we know it are some of your causes, then you want to pay attention to the following. This is going to be hard, but we’ve been fighting a losing battle for years and as hard as it is for us to go on, if we don’t, who will?
1.) VOTE. If you are a citizen of any country that allows its citizens to engage in democracy, then please vote. Voter turnout in this election this week was around 56% nationwide. Yeah, that means that 40% of people just didn’t participate. Some of that is due to voter suppression issues, gerrymandering, and oppression of minorities and lower class citizens (I encourage you to explore these on your own as they are not the focal point here. Contact me for references if you desire). A lot of this was due to voter turnout though. Not enough people are coming to the polls. Check this chart out. Even fewer people turnout for mid-term elections. WE ELECT SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES AT MIDTERM ELECTIONS. You should vote for these people. They “represent” you. Please vote for candidates that will support progress on issues you care about. The climate is a good example!
2.) Engage politicians. Everyone says that politicians are too busy taking money from rich people with interests to care about what the people actually want. Maybe this is true, but their job is to represent the people. If all of the people, not just democrats, speak up about climate action, then it will come. You can’t ignore the entire populous. We must make climate an issue that doesn’t get voted for based on party lines or we are all doomed. There are people on both sides of the aisle that know climate is a major problem. Contact them and ask them to act. Contact the deniers and ask them to act as well. It certainly can’t hurt. There are people out there who will change their public stance on this issue. It is already happening! Keep that momentum alive.
Here is a list of resources you can use to contact congress. Email, mail, call them, whatever you need to do. Tell them climate change matters to you and ask them to take action. Don’t do it once, do it once a month, once a week, once a year, whatever works for you.
3.) Support continuing education, higher ed, and science education
This is extremely important. The future of America voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.
Why? Because they support equality for minorities, women, LGBTQ+ communities, etc. But also because they support action on environmental issues, including climate change. This was evident by their (our) overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders as well. The younger generations of this country want change. The trouble is that they aren’t a majority yet and they don’t show up to vote in huge numbers (see above).
But, these people are more educated on environmental issues facing our world and are more concerned about long term impacts than the older generation (who can admittedly be a little bit more short sighted, at least for selfish reasons). Anyway, we need to keep educating the future of American voters about ALL ISSUE, especially climate. We also need to reach those older generations or more conservative pockets of America through outreach. These people are not stupid, they just have different concerns and values. Listen to them, talk to them, discourse can be had. I’ve done it. Sometimes it’s hard, but you can do it, too! If you are an academic I encourage you to read this letter from a professor at Columbia to his class. It is an excellent example of why continuing to educate about environmental issues is so important. We are running out of time. This generation must make the change. We must continue to educate to make that happen.
4.) Support NGOs. The government may be able to defund NSF, EPA, NOAA, etc, but non-governmental organizations can’t be defunded by the government. They can lose partnerships as science and environment related offices within government are jettisoned, but they cannot lose all of their funding. They rely on donations and partnerships with private citizens and organizations to do their work. This reliance will increase if governmental environmental programs are cut. You can get involved on this front. Yes you. Even if you can’t give money, you can give time. Find a local branch of an NGO and volunteer. Send money every month. Whatever you can do! Scientists will be looking to partner with NGOs even more than we already do in order to keep our valuable work alive. You can help!
Here is a huge list of conservation NGOs in the US.
A few favorites of mine: The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Oceana. IF you want to give to a specific program within an NGO (a tree planting project instead of a lobbying campaign for example) that can be done. Do a little research and figure out what is best for you!
5.) Pay a voluntary carbon tax to help offset travel related emissions. Essentially, you are donating money to an organization that works to offset emissions by planting trees, preventing erosion, protecting oceans, etc. You can either use a service (like Terrapass) or just by doing some research and finding some groups that do the work you think is important. Please do good research, make sure you money isn’t going to waste. If you need help or suggestions feel free to get in touch with me. Here are some suggestions:
Citizens Climate Lobby– Lobbying for a government mandated carbon tax
The Nature Conservancy plant a billion project– worldwide reforestation effort (includes Appalachia and SE US, China, and Brazil)
Eden reforestation project– Worldwide reforestation effort
Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch– A more abstract approach. Seafood watch provides recommendations on sustainable fishing practices worldwide and can inform consumers on which products are sustainable and which are not. This allows the consumer to only purchase sustainably sourced options and increase demand for sustainability while decreasing demand for the opposite.
The afore mentioned TNC and Oceana.
6.) Be an informed consumer!
Shop locally first. Only purchase sustainable items. Decrease waste. Compost. Dispose of less. Stop using plastic bags. Demand sustainable items at local stores. Research what to buy, when to buy it, and where to buy it. Support bans on single-use plastic items (congrats to California for passing their ban on single use bags)
7.) Support diversity, inclusion, and equal rights.
I have people close to me at work and in my personal life that are LQBTQ, female, black, hispanic, muslim, etc. These people make me a better person. Diversity improves my life every single day. I have broadened my perspectives so much thanks to all of these folks and I know they know how much I value them. Adding a new voice to a situation is usually not a negative. Differing perspectives vastly improve science and I think they improve all aspects of life. Support diversity and inclusion initiatives wherever you live and work. If you are privileged enough to not be impacted personally by the racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny that is still rampant in our society please use that platform to be an ally.
To me female/LQBTQ+/minority co-workers, boss, friends, family, and to my wife: I know you are strong. I know you really don’t need me because you and I are equal. We are all people and we are all good at what we do. Many (most) of you are smarter and better than me. I’m cool with that. I do not stand for you because you are capable of standing for yourselves. I stand with you. Please let me know what I can do to help. You matter and no one should ever marginalize you.
Together we can do this! We must not give up. If you need help with any of these things tweet questions or comments at me @jbaumann3.