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Ocean Currents

Take Climate Action While Social Distancing

Protect the health of your community and our planet

Natures purple yawn Scott Cushman
© Scott Cushman

I don’t know about you, but as I’m adjusting to staying home and social distancing there are some days where I just want to do something good. While social distancing is by far the best action anyone can take right now, we can still help other causes we care about.

One of the issues that I care about most is climate change. Climate change is altering the very makeup of our natural world, including the ocean! And I’m here to share with you some ways you can make a difference for our climate while also protecting our shared public health.

But before we get to how each of us can help, it helps to remember that it isn’t any one person’s responsibility to fix climate change. This will take a coordinated effort by all of us and it requires systemic change in our industries and governments to truly tackle climate change. While climate change is a massive and daunting challenge, if we all take action in our own small ways, we CAN make a difference. We have the opportunity to stop climate change from continuing to worsen and we have a chance to protect the planet we all love.

As Mary Annaïse Heglar, a self-described Climate Person and writer, wrote in a recent essay (which I highly recommend you read):

The world is not falling apart in front of our eyes so much as it is falling into our hands. What will happen if we’re brave enough to catch the falling pieces?

With that said, there are a few things we can each do now from home to help take action against climate change. And even better, we can all continue following these steps once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

1. Talk about it

It might seem silly in the time of social distancing to recommend talking to people, but I, for one, find myself on the phone with family and friends way more often than I did before. One of my personal climate communications heroes is climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, and one piece of advice she routinely gives is that talking about climate change is one of the best things anyone can do to help. Talk about it with your friends, your family, maybe even your coworkers. Maybe they already care about the issue or maybe they don’t, but the only way to find out and possibly motivate others to take action is to talk about it.

If you’re talking to someone who doesn’t really care about climate change or even denies its existence, one of the best ways to communicate with them is by talking about why climate change is important to you personally and finding some common ground. Don’t try to bombard them with facts and information thinking that will win them over. Instead, find out what you both care about and talk about why climate change is important to you in relation to that shared value—whether it’s SCUBA diving among coral reefs or protecting your homes from stronger storms and flooding.

Finally, finish with a specific solution. Oftentimes people are scared by thinking that any solution to climate change will dramatically hurt their lives or livelihoods. But when people hear actual solutions that are applicable and doable in their communities they’re more likely to get on board.

2. Get involved

There are many different organizations and environmental campaigns that could use your help. While many of us may not be in a position to contribute monetarily, we can still donate our time. A lot of organizations are looking at new ways to carry on their work virtually, whether it’s the climate strikers taking their strikes to social media or more traditional nonprofits considering how to substitute virtual and remote experiences for the in-person events they used to hold. If you have the time and capability to help out, reach out to one of your favorite climate organizations or campaigners to see if there’s anything you can do to help from home.

3. Tell your elected officials that climate change matters to you

While the country and our elected officials are rightfully prioritizing the COVID-19 response, other legislative and administrative activities are still occurring, albeit in the background. And if we’re all staying at home, what better time than now to write a letter saying that you want your elected officials from local to federal levels to take action against climate change? Or if you’re a talker, you can give them a call.

Just as when you’re talking to someone who may not be concerned about climate change, tell your elected officials why climate change is important to you as their constituent. Do you live in a coastal community that is at risk from sea level rise? Are you a fisherman who’s witnessing your catch decrease as fish populations move away in search of cooler water? No matter what it is, if you make it personal and local to the jurisdiction your official represents then you have a better chance that they will actually listen.

And finally, you can sign up to receive alerts from organizations like ours that let you know when and how you can take action by signing letters that tell our government they need to protect our climate and ocean.

As we’re learning through the COVID-19 pandemic, it takes all of us to truly make a difference. Right now we need to all stay home and limit our physical contact as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus. If we can take that lesson of communal action and apply it to climate change, then we can help not only our ocean but the entire planet.

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