1. Build a team
Most of us wear many hats each day of our lives. Get to know each of your communities. What kind of issues does the climate crisis present to your neighborhood, school or knitting club? Can you gather everyone together to work to solve them? Start with a potluck. You can bring hummus.
2. Speak up
Does climate change make you feel small and insignificant? Does speaking in front of a group make you squeamish? All of us experience different levels of fear and uncertainty about addressing issues of justice, and for some of us, it may present a very real threat. What is stopping you from speaking out? If it is just discomfort, challenge yourself to embrace it.
3. Understand intersections
Issues of social justice are hardly strangers. Conceptualizing climate change as the “most important issue” creates an illusion of separateness that weakens all of our work. Issues of race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, incarceration and migration all intersect with climate change. Seek out the connections and learn more about them. United we stand. Divided we fall.
4. Say “NO!” to the old world
We need to leave 80% of our reserves of coal, oil and natural gas in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. This means no new fossil fuel infrastructure from this point forward. No to new pipelines. No to new fracking pads. No to more oil exploration. What resistance is happening in your community? Get involved or start your own. If we don’t get it? Shut it down.
5. Say “YES!” to the new world
Find out where your energy and food come from and what is possible. Start a solar or wind cooperative with your neighbors, friends, colleagues or congregation. Campaign for a Climate Action Plan in your state. Solutions are here and more affordable than ever. We simply need to fight for them.
6. Look beyond energy policy
While we do need the 2016 National Climate Urgent Response Act (you heard it here first), progress towards a climate stable world can be rapidly undone in other policy domains. In addition to climate-specific work, don’t forget to mobilize against secretive international trade agreements, regressive agriculture policies and unjust wars.
7. Know where you come from
Which parts of your identity influence the way you understand climate justice? Say you are a white, working class, transgender man from the moon with a PhD in happiness. Each of these ways you move through the world change the way you are affected by and can fight against climate injustice. When we acknowledge our privileges and disadvantages we can figure out how to effectively work from them.
8. Move beyond individual action
Much fun can be had turning off the lights on family members and biking past traffic jams on your way to work. Yet we should not place the burden of solving climate change on any one person’s shoulders. The systems driving the climate crisis are too large for any one of us to carry alone. Instead, we need to build authentic relationships and work together to wield our collective people-power to change the world.
9. Leverage your assets
What skills, resources and talents do you have at your disposal? Perhaps you make art, speak another language, or are nifty at web design. Do you have a printer, spare room or fresh vegetables to spare? How about your broader communities? Get together to map your assets and scheme about how to best put them to use.
10. Show solidarity
We will realize climate justice only after building solidarity across issues, communities, and movements. For instance, standing for climate justice means being in solidarity with incarcerated women of color, undocumented trans men, the ongoing struggles of indigenous communities, and the actions and demands of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
12. Show up. Part II: Online
Spread stories of resistance, resilience and solutions. Be a conscious media consumer, checking sources, funders, and possible conflicts of interest. Be critical with how narratives are formed in mainstream media. Who wins and loses? Who says so? Why? Seek out voices different to your own. Try #100DaysofClimateJustice.
13. Find the roots
Statistics are forgettable. Stories are memorable. Do you know why you fight? Do you know what moments in your life reoriented you towards working for climate justice? Take out a piece of paper and start with “I knew I wanted to fight for a better world when…”
14. Share your story
Sow your seeds of action by sharing your story with others. At dinner tables, family gatherings, work functions, and in the media. Write op-eds, start a blog, create a website, send press releases for your events to radio, television and print media. Make your story heard.
15. Celebrate and heal
Care for yourself by embracing your needs - physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual. We all need to maintain energy and drive for the long-haul. Gather ‘your people’ for a long meal. Admit fear. Bake bread. Collage magazines, spin pottery or compose a song on the guitar. Grieve in community. Always carve out time for you to be you.
Working to remove the social license of the fossil fuel industry, divestment campaigns are being won around the world. Are you a student, professor, alumnus/alumnae, investor, employee of a company, member of a religious institution or a retiree? You likely have some say over the investment practices of either your own or an institution’s money. Work to move your money out of the old world and into the new.
17. Go outside
Are the stars out tonight? Which way was the wind blowing today? Our eroding relationship with the natural world is much to blame for our newfound ability to disconnect human and environmental suffering. Sing and dance in the rain. Find those green spaces in your city. Plant seeds and nurture seedlings.
19. Dare to dream
When confronted by the immensity of the climate crisis it can be easy to feel lost and alone. Yet with each step you take towards action you will find yourself increasingly surrounded by the courageous, passionate and loving people that are building a better future for all. Take a deep breath and let the power of this movement sink in. We got this.
This article is by Garrett Blad and Morgan Curtis, two storytelling cyclactivists who just finished six months traveling to COP21. Follow along at climatejourney.org, or @climatejourney. Inspired by “17 Ways You Can Work for Social Justice” by Nina Flores, published on Medium and in YES! Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @bellhookedme.
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