What's Actually Need to Ignite Change
5 Tips to Becoming Part of the Critical Mass
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Last week as I navigated the profundities of New York Climate Week, I was continuously struck by inspiration from the speakers, attendees, and organizations actively engaging in the climate space. It was a powerfully energizing week and a pleasant reminder that people care and are doing their part. But for every innovative sustainability startup or endearing nonprofit, there are major corporations talking more about their promises for the future and less about what they have actually done. The resounding feedback around climate weeks, COPs, and the like, is that there has been an overwhelming sense of greenwashing and empty promises - a whole lot of talk with little action. During an era that needs to be our Climate Decade, not just a Climate Week, I beg the question - What is actually needed to ignite change year round and how can we make it happen?
What It Takes to Ignite Change
Igniting change takes less engagement than you might think. According to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard, engaging 3.5% of the population in a cause is all that it takes to win that cause. This is famously showcased in the tidal wave of climate legislation that came out of the U.S. around protecting clean air, clean water, and endangered species after the first Earth Day in 1970.
“This is not about a small elite with disproportionate resources. This is about a minority trying to change the status quo, and succeeding by being unrelenting. By committing to new behavior, they repeatedly expose others to that new behavior until they start to copy it.” - Arnout van de Rijt, Utrecht University.
So what does this mean for us? We must actively engage 3.5% of the population in taking consistent, effective, and transformative climate action. We need to make sure that we are doing the best we can and inspiring others to do the same. As the Yale Climate Communication study highlights, 70% of Americans are concerned about the climate crisis, and 30% talk about the climate crisis. In theory, actively engaging 3.5% of those people around an existential threat seems feasible. Most things are however typically easier said than done. Below are a few tips for making sure you are actively a part of this 3.5% critical mass and how to make your contribution effective.
5 Tips to Becoming Part of the Critical Mass
1. Show Up
Whether it’s to a protest, an organizing meeting, or a climate week, being part of the critical mass means getting out from behind your computer and showing up. (Absolutely heeding any covid precautions.) If you can’t show up in person, then utilize Twitter to retweet and support the efforts of those on the ground.
2. Keep It Civil
Chenoweth’s research showed that historically nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns.
3. Exercise Your Rights as a Citizen
Vote, vote, vote in elections big and small, local and national, whether you’re part of the majority in your area or not. Electing climate leaders to offices is an essential piece to the puzzle of getting systemic change and legislation pushed through.
Once they are elected, hold them accountable. Send emails and letters, and leave voicemails reminding them to fight for the planet. Joining a local organization of The Climate Reality Project, downloading the Climate Action App, or just setting reminders for yourself to check in monthly with your reps is a great place to start.
4. Flex Your Power as a Consumer
Without creeping anyone out too much around internet privacy - In this digital age, companies know everything you’re buying and where you are buying it from. Opting into the more sustainable option from the local brand will signify a decreased market share for the big box brand with the huge carbon and plastic footprints and signify an increase in market share for our greener more sustainable future. It has never been a more impactful time to vote and make change with your money.
5. Recruit More People to the Climate Movement
Let’s reach the 3.5% of the critical mass needed to ensure change. Take action today and inspire a few friends along the way.
But remember personal sustainability around your own internal energy sources is the most critical aspect of maintaining your activism efforts. Be sure to pick what energizes you and lights you up
Climate Optimism + The Power of Action
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The Headlines We’re Happy to See
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