Recently, climate change has caught the attention of a much wider audience, whether from schools, social media, or weekly news reports. Through growing awareness of the global issue, more students, consumers, and political figures are getting involved in promoting climate justice. As Earth Day passes each year, climate change steps into the spotlight of the news again, highlighting how environmental issues continue to worsen with the dangerous rates of human consumption, but more importantly mentioning how individuals can become more involved in climate action.
At Andover, Earth Day was extended to a week full of activities surrounding environmental justice, helping spread awareness and opportunities to promote sustainability. Through the Green Cup challenge, one of the events held during Earth Week, students could become aware of their energy consumption as a dorm, as they were able to compete against others by lowering their energy use. While the competition is a collective effort to reduce the carbon footprint of Andover as a school, the outcome of the event seems to have little impact when compared to the larger issue of climate change. Yet, the competition endorses the right concept of a student population living more sustainably through lowering energy consumption. It is the lack of explicit purpose and impermanence of the event that prevents the initiative to achieve greater progression in environmental justice. If more students took low energy use as a long term lifestyle on campus, as a community, we would be doing good to reduce a part of our footprint. The same idea can be applied to the impact of individual efforts to promote sustainability. Climate justice activists highlight change rooting from corporations and progressive laws, implying how the impact of individuals is minimal. However, if every individual in a community were to reduce their food waste and use public transportation more frequently, these habits would help in decreasing a larger carbon footprint.
Those who state how corporate level change has the biggest impact on the climate issue reference how industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, are capable of controlling a big portion of carbon emissions. While this is true, our actions as consumers drive the demand for fossil fuel companies. By continuing to drive cars guzzling gasoline and exacerbating light usage in households, fossil fuels continue to be consumed at severe rates. In 2019, fossil fuels were a source of 74 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US, according to the Energy Information Administration. The choices individuals make everyday directly impact fossil fuel consumption, which then directly impacts the amount of pollution released. As consumers, we are connected to the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions due to how we have decided to carelessly live for years now. Individual lifestyles are one big aspect propelling the increasing consumption rates, which can be easily changed to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Climate change can seem daunting after reaching a global population and showing off its irreversible damages to habitats around the world, but what needs to be understood is that all humans can do at the moment is prevent further damages. The biggest impacts are said to come from corporate and government level change, yet individual action plays a crucial role in establishing a possible future for upcoming generations by standardizing sustainable lifestyles, necessary to decrease the current human consumption levels that are driving the world into deteriorating conditions. The more people believe that individual impact matters, the more potential they have to create an impact on climate change.
Individual action consists of a spectrum of personal choices, ranging from diets, means of transportation, consumption of products and household energy use. One person choosing to take public transportation rather than their own car has little impact on climate change, but if their friends decide to use public transportation knowing that it reduces overall carbon emissions, a collective effort would be made, working together to lower carbon dioxide emissions in their area. The stigma surrounding how lifestyle choices have no effect is what stops people from choosing to live more sustainably. If the current rate of human consumption, heavily determined by how people decide to live their day to day lives, continues, the world is predicted to hit a critical breaking point in just about 28 years, as shown by The World Counts. Individual action may seem small when placed aside to the global issue, but our choices are able to become a collective act within a group of people, where every individual’s actions works to lower the amount of overall consumption.
The belief that climate change is out of individual control cannot be a greater misunderstanding, as we have the power to choose how to live, and one option is to live sustainably. Climate change is a consequence humans well deserve. After decades of abusing the natural resources Earth has provided, it is up to humans to either pay the cost or simply, live more cautiously of individual choices and habits that link to one of the world’s biggest issues: climate change.