Editor’s note: On Friday, young people are gathering in at least 98 countries to demand action on climate change. First on their list of demands: Governments need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions. Conservation International’s climate change lead, Shyla Raghav, has a message for them:
Climate change isn’t a problem for young people to solve alone. Whether or not you’re joining a march this week, there are steps you can take every single day to help the fight against climate change. Start with these five:
1. Talk about it. Climate change can lead to decision paralysis — it seems like such a difficult and complicated problem that often no one knows what to do about it or how they can make a difference, so they ignore it. I encourage you to talk more about climate change even if you don’t have all the answers. That’s where creativity and solutions come from. And that’s what will help our leaders and decision-makers realize that climate change is an important issue for current and future voters — and be compelled to do something about it.
2. Speaking of … vote! Without elected officials in office who believe in climate change and are willing to take action to fight it, we’re not going to see improvement on the local, regional or national level. Use your voice. Vote for the people and the policies that will move the needle. And if you’re too young to vote, find out how you can help candidates in other ways, whether that’s stuffing envelopes or going door to door to talk to people about issues.
3. Shift to a climate-friendly diet that features more plant-based proteins. Cutting back on red meat is beneficial to the planet because livestock such as cows release methane, a greenhouse gas, and require large amounts of land and feed. Cattle ranch expansion is also the largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, one of the world’s most essential tropical forests. Plant-based proteins such as legumes and nuts are delicious and can provide the nutrition at a much lower environmental cost.
4. Buy less stuff. Buying less not only cuts down on plastic packaging that is clogging our oceans, it also reduces your carbon footprint and puts fewer greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. Clothing in particular offers a great opportunity to cut back. “Fast fashion,” or clothes that are designed and sold on lightning-fast time frames at massive volumes, has led to an increase in clothing consumption by 60 percent since 2000. Instead, consider “slow fashion” — buying fewer pieces of higher quality that are sustainably and ethically made. It might be one of the best things you can do for your footprint.
5. Use social media to connect with youth in other countries. Climate change affects everyone — but it’s different in each country. Learning about how young people in other locales are dealing with climate change builds understanding of the global issue and helps us develop global solutions. You can use your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread awareness about climate change and to discuss how you’re helping solve the problem.
Shyla Raghav is Conservation International’s climate change lead.