Action still matters.
The future in our hands
How can indivual action matter?
Life on planet earth is beautiful and precious… and in the age of the so-called anthropocene, it’s all on us to either preserve or squander it. Once more, looking at the numbers climate science provides, we realize that with the beginning of this decade (2020-30), there is an amount of 340 giga tons of CO2 emissions remaining that must not be exceeded if we want to keep global warming below 1.5 °C. The bad news is that with business as usual, this amount will be used up in not more than the next eight years. We have to start reducing global CO2 emissions drastically and get totally carbon neutral as soon as possible if we want to leave a half-decent planet to our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It’s on us to decide if we leave a healthy living planet or an uninhabitable desert to them.
The following aspects have helped me to keep up my motivation for and belief in the power of my individual action. I want to share them with you.
I. Take yourself seriously
Change will not come if we wait for others or for another time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. In order to be authentic, but also in order to find out what’s possible, we need to live the change that we want to see in the world. For people will not respect you for what you say, but for what you are and do. Therefore, taking the lead and setting a good example can have an impact on others.
Real change however requires in the first place, that we recognize ourselves as subjects, as the germ cells of change, Nor are we economical maximizers nor helpless gear wheels in a deteministic system, but human beings endowed with reason and the ability to communication with our fellow humans. As subjects of this kind, we live in both a market economy and a democracy which sometimes more, sometimes less, render us the chance to make free decisions and transform ourselves to the better. What is more, in our relationships and networks with others, we can share knowledge, responsibility and the feeling of self-efficacy. We can recognize, cherish and admire exemplary behavior of others and we ourselves can become role models for others as well.
II. How much is enough?
Currently, the vast part of the production and consumption in our Western democracies are taken out to supply our affluent Wants and to maintain the idea, that all of planet earth’s resources and and products have to be available at any given point of time in any requested amount. If doubts come up, we drown them with the dominant narrative in our society, that change towards sustainability has to come from either politics or technological innovation that make the use of resources more efficient. However, the excessiveness of our WANTS is so much stronger than any political regulation or technological innovation can offset. Therefore, lifestyles of sufficiency (not: “efficiency”) are the second important principle for real change towards sustainability.
III. DO, Produce and Repair things on your own
Current forms of production in agriculture, clothing industry, consumer electronics industry etc. cause devastating, for us often-invisible ecological and social problems in other countries. They make us dependent on resources and production of other countries, require energy-intensive transport over thousands of kilometres and entail massive amounts of disposable packaging. If, on the other hand, we grow our own foods or buy foods with local origin, if we rediscover how to conserve them or if we set longevity as the key criterion for consumer decisions, if we prolong the life of consumer products by learning how to repair them, we can evade – or at least alleviate – the aformentioned problems. However, high degrees of subsistence are only attainable, if we go out and unite with others – by learning from each other and by working with pooled forces.
IV. talk about it
However, just doing things and hoping for others to see them might not be sufficient. I want to encourage everyone who espouses for a living planet and a liveable future, to also talk about this, bring their opinion and standpoint into the discussion, encourage others to also believe in the power of their action. This includes criticizing and risking to fall foul of somebody. If people tell you you had no right to criticize their individual lifestyle choices, then remember that you are not speaking up against freedom, but against the excessive aspects in our lifestyles that pose a danger for your own life, the one of future generations and everything we depend on. Of course, at all times we should be aware, that with what we say, we should adhere to the truth and stay respectful.