TL;DR: The climate crisis is calling a lot of us to step outside our comfort zones for the first time; don't get paralysed by indecision, but just do SOMETHING; you can take a baby step towards the scary place without committing to going there--just see what happens next!; 4 easy mindset actions at the end.
When you first become aware of the pending climate catastrophe, and the need for you to personally do something, it’s easy to be paralysed by fear and indecision.
Should I contact my local politicians? How do I contact my local politicians? I’m too nervous to call a politician. If I post about this on facebook, will my friends unfollow me? It feels impossible to give up my car. Could I join a protest? I’m scared of getting arrested. How do I explain to my family that I’m not flying home for Christmas? There’s no way I can hold up a placard in public. How do I talk about climate change without alienating people? What’s the best thing to be doing? Am I wasting precious time? Am I getting it wrong?
I know the feels. I’ve had many of them myself.
The climate emergency has prompted me to take an interest in politics and activism for the first time in my life. The same is true for a lot of people my age and younger. For most of us, this is realllly out of our comfort zones. Ring up a grown-up and tell them we think they’re wrong about something? Go to a person’s place of work and bother them? Get in the way of traffic while holding a giant, embarrassing placard? It’s a lot of fuss for a generation whose usual speed is “put in my earbuds, avoid eye contact on the train”.
But somebody has to do it. The more of us the better (the magic number for the success of civil resistance movements, historically, is that it works when 3.5% of the population are actively engaged). So I’m taking leaps. Or sometimes, tiny steps. The important hump to get over is to just take that first step out of comfort.
You don’t always have to know where the step will lead. You don’t need to commit to the steps that might come after. You just have to take the first step.
For me, it was attending a meeting of my local chapter of Extinction Rebellion this week. Actually, it was hitting “Going” on the Facebook event for the meeting. Even that came with some trepidation--everyone who follows me on Facebook will see I’ve RSVPed to go to this--but I just took a quick breath and did it.
I believe that sustained, non-violent civil resistance is the key to achieving meaningful government action on the climate crisis. The current movement led by Extinction Rebellion models itself on previous successful movements. We know this works. And yet I still feel a mental shutdown at the idea of actually attending a protest, holding up a placard, getting in somebody’s way.
So I just hit “Going” on the facebook event. And then I went to the meeting. And I hit “Going” on the School Strike 4 Climate Global Strike protest on September 20th, and I guess I’ll go to that too. I’m even planning my placard.
I haven’t decided whether I’ll join an Extinction Rebellion group. I don’t know whether I’ll ever glue myself to a public street, or sit-in at the headquarters of some corporate conglomeration or other in protest. I might never raise the guts to request a meeting with my local MP or phone directors of companies associated with the building of the Adani mine to ask them not to go ahead.
But I took the first step. And every baby step in the direction I want to go makes the final destination seem easier.
Because the planet needs people to speak for it. Humanity needs people to speak up, or we are headed for mass destruction.
And if not you and me, then who?
Related, really awesome/encouraging read: I'm an ordinary person who joined an Extinction Rebellion blockade. Here's why you should too.
*I literally wrote this blog post on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. I flew back later that SAME day. Just sharing so that you know I'm not better at this than you are. And still - if not us, then who?