Updated: Feb 28
By Brennan Atkins
At the 2021 Earth Day Summit, world leaders around the globe made pledges and set goals as to how their nations were going to respond to the most imminent and ignored threat Earth faces: climate change.
At the summit, President Joseph R. Biden announced that the United States planned to cut 50% of carbon emissions by 2030.
Biden openly admitting that climate change is real may not seem monumental – back in 2015, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. planned to cut carbon emissions by 26% by the year 2025 (compared to 2005) – but Donald J. Trump’s presidency certainly did not help in providing global solutions for the warming of our planet.
Not only did Biden acknowledge that climate change directly affects the lives of those who are not responsible for environmental injustice, but he also alluded to the economic possibilities that could arise from taking on climate change headfirst.
Climate change is our planet’s greatest immediate danger. The accumulation of methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide is trapping heat within our atmosphere, and this has resulted in polar ice melting.
According to NASA, rising sea levels are directly caused by this trapped heat – irregular precipitation patterns, increased chance of drought, a rise in natural disasters, and abnormal growing seasons are only some of the countless effects of global warming.
More often than not, it seems as if members of my generation simply blame the largest corporations in the world, and feel as if they can’t do anything to combat this gargantuan threat.
While this is certainly understandable, we need to reframe climate initiatives in a way that motivates people to create a planet cleaner than ever before, rather than simply repairing a damaged world.
We all have a responsibility to protect the planet we call home.
It is difficult to feel as if you can’t do anything about saving the environment due to corporations having such a high responsibility in damaging our planet, but not doing anything doesn’t help at all.
Per Espen Stoknes, a psychologist and economist who has dedicated himself to environmental change, believes the current emotional response toward climate change is a pressing issue. He remarks many do not engage with climate change due to the underlying emotional response of guilt and fear. For many, it is easier to simply not think about it.
Actively participating in environmentally conscious actions, such as turning oR unnecessary lights and picking up litter, needs to become a value of my generation.
Currently, there is little-to-no social pressure to be environmentally conscious. To make matters worse, figuring out exactly how much energy you’ve consumed or emissions you’ve emitted can be a complicated task for many Americans.
Companies such as Opower have been playing with the idea of creating a social competition out of energy saving. The company works with over 100 energy providers to send consumers specific reports about how much energy a residency consumes, and compares that data to local and national levels.
Becoming aware of how much you waste is one of the first steps of attaining a truly global perspective – acting on those observations is the next.
Combating climate change is achievable – realizing the various approaches you can take in order to contribute to fighting global warming is imperative in creating a social drive for change.
The most immediate method is to always dispose of trash properly – doing research on what can be reused or recycled can help reduce waste overall. Check to see if your community has an organics collection program in which you can leave food waste to be composted.
Considering the carbon footprint for produce, and red meat especially, is substantial. Wasting food is an ultimate lose-lose situation – it negatively impacts our climate while also strengthening the current food insecurity crisis.
Reducing the amount of red meat consumed throughout the week can also help reduce your personal carbon footprint. Consider changing red meat as part of an everyday diet to a meal to be enjoyed on occasion. Additionally, there’s an increasing market for alternative meat which tastes quite similar to the original product.
Longer-term methods to personally combat climate change include investing in energy-efficient appliances, when possible. While it isn’t currently realistic for everyone to purchase an electric vehicle (which massively reduces your personal emission rate), making sure home appliances are Energy-Star certified ensures you are not wasting energy that could have been saved.
It also saves you money.
While these actions are not going to be the end-all to climate change, repeating these actions can create a society where saving energy and being environmentally conscious is truly valued.
The people who want environmental justice can no longer be a minority. They have to be an
overwhelming voice from everyone on the planet.