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Systemic change

Experts agree that tackling the climate crisis requires large-scale, systemic change. But as individuals, we can help push those in positions of power to take action – whether that’s pushing lawmakers to alter the current carbon-intensive economic model, demanding that financial institutions stop funding fossil fuels, or even joining demonstrations to raise awareness of the issue.

Systemic change climate protest

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Make those in power feel the heat

More often than not, the language around the climate crisis – including on this website – is often couched in terms of actions that “we” as a species must take. While it’s true that humanity as a whole will have to make changes to survive the climate crisis, it’s also undeniably true that some individuals have more power than others, and therefore, a greater responsibility when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.

An indigenous person living in the Amazon basin may be feeling the effects of climate change first-hand (and may have done little to contribute to cumulative carbon emissions), but they have far less agency when it comes to making the necessary, global changes than a US Senator, for example.

Putting pressure on those who have the power to do something – from politicians, to corporate CEOs, to those at the top of the financial sector – is key to achieving the systemic change we need.

Climate change is happening now and to all of us. No country or community is immune. And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.

António Guterres

UN Secretary General

Write to your legislators, say that you’re concerned about climate change. A written letter can have even more impact, because, you know, who does that any more?

Laur Hesse Fisher

Program Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative, MIT

Write to your lawmakers

Ensuring that decarbonisation happens sooner rather than later will require new laws, and government investment in clean, green technology. Raising your voice in support, can help this process along. One of the best things you can do, according to Laur Hesse Fisher of MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, is to write to your lawmakers at local, county or state and national level. Let them know you want them to make the climate crisis a priority, and that you – as a constituent – want to see concrete action.

If you live in the UK, US or Europe, you can find out who your representatives are here:

Find your MP (UK)
Find your Representative (USA)
Find your MEP (EU)

Vote for Climate Action

Vote for climate action

If you live in a democracy and you’re over the voting age, voting in individuals who will take genuine action on the climate crisis – and voting out those who won’t – is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.

Voting with climate change in mind doesn’t necessarily mean voting for one party over another, but it does mean reading up on each candidate’s climate policies, and what their parties might push at a national level too. In the UK, Friends of the Earth’s excellent Take Climate Action site is a good place to start.

It would take a long time for an individual to wade through all the policy proposals and all the options. One shortcut is to try and find a group that aligns with your values, and see what they offer as a way to engage.

Laur Hesse Fisher

Program Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative, MIT

Support groups pushing for action

NGOs, nonprofits and other civil society groups have historically played a significant role in pushing through climate action. Even large organisations like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or the Sierra Club rely on donations to keep their campaigns afloat. Volunteering or supporting them financially is a great way to get involved.

There are also myriad smaller, more targeted organisations you can support – from local green initiatives to national organisations aimed at particular demographics, like Science Moms.

Support groups pushing for action

Putting pressure on those in power is key to achieving the systemic change we need

Putting pressure on those in power is key to achieving the systemic change we need

There’s no such thing as a perfect advocate

If you eat meat, fly off on holiday once a year, or drive a diesel-powered car, it can be easy to feel like you’re being hypocritical calling for large-scale systemic changes. You’re not.

It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect advocate. Living without using any fossil fuels is all-but impossible under the current economic system. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from campaigning for that to change.

I don’t need you to be all-solar-everything to be an environmentalist. I don’t need you to be vegan-er than thou. I don’t care if you are eating a burger right this minute. I don’t even care if you work on an oil rig – in some [places], those are the only jobs that pay. I don’t care how green you are, I want you in the movement for climate justice.

Mary Annaïse Heglar

Mary Annaïse Heglar, essayist & climate justice activist

Cut your carbon footprint

Individual actions will never be enough to make a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions without widespread systemic change. However, making changes to your lifestyle can be a good place to start – especially if they help spark conversations with family, and friends, and get others involved in advocating for climate justice.

Individual advocacy