Happy Earth Day! "I encourage all Americans to engage in programs and activities that will promote an understanding of environmental protection, the urgency of climate change, and the need to create a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all people," says President Joe Biden, referring to Earth Day. But we're not all in Congress! So, in honor of Earth Day, how can you take climate action?
You always hear about turning off the lights, recycling, and other basic actions that you can take. But while that's great for sustainability, it's not holistic climate action. Here are some actions that you can take.
1. Read: Educate Yourself
The first step is always educating yourself. You can't properly act on climate change without learning about what it is. By understanding climate change, you can know what you can do to properly tackle it. Kids Fight Climate Change is constantly updating content, from what it is, to causes, effects, and solutions, but other great resources are the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, NASA Climate Change, and NASA Climate Kids.
2. Talk: Educate Others
Okay, you've learned about climate change. What's next? Now it's your turn to educate everyone else. A great place to start is talking to your parents, friends, and other family members that you know and that you're comfortable with. A good conversation starter is something that you read in the news, such as a hurricane or new climate policy. From there, you can shift the conversation into something more broad about climate change. Your goal here isn't to make them agree with you on everything, but see that you have merit and want to learn more.
3. Connect: Local Organizations
Once you have more practice with climate conversations, you've done it! You're a budding climate activist. Your next part is a big step, but it's doable. Research local organizations to see how you can get involved. A lot of organizations, like the Climate Museum in New York City, have volunteer opportunities, and they've been shifted online during COVID! You can gain great experience and, depending on the organization, you can get service credit for your school. This volunteering can really be anything you want it to be, such as spreading the word about climate change. While you're volunteering, make sure to observe the people around you, particularly those more experienced than you. What do they do, and how can you model your actions after them?
4. Contact: Your Government Representatives
This part can also be a bit daunting. First, look up who are your state and federal Senators and representatives. They will all have contact information on their website. Then take a look at their websites to see what issues they're passionate about. Some will care more about the climate, so you should talk about that when you're writing, and some you might have to connect climate change to other areas that they care more about (this goes back to your research!). In your email or letter, you should mention that you're a youth (if you are; if you're not, mention that you're one of their constituents) and talk about your experience in climate activism. What led you to this moment? Then think about specific asks you have for them, and write them down. Elected officials do read what you have to say, if for no other reason than you elected them!
Climate organizations can always use money to fund programs! Some great places to donate are the Human Impacts Institute, EarthJustice, and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Many of your donations will be tax-deductible, too.
Vote, vote, vote! Even if you're in a district that's overwhelmingly for your candidate (or against them), you should still vote because your voice matters! If you're lucky enough to be 18 or older, then you should get out into the polls. I'm counting down the days until 2024, when I can vote. Primaries for many local positions are happening right now, which are just as important as state and federal elections.
Happy Earth Day again! With Biden's climate summit and new international focus on climate change, I hope this is the year that you can get out there and be active in the climate space!