Climate Change: How to be helpful when you feel helpless

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A man takes pictures of the disaster left behind by a tornado in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. A tornado and pounding rains smashed into the eastern part of Cuba’s capital overnight, toppling trees, bending power poles and flinging shards of metal roofing through the air as the storm cut a path of destruction across eastern Havana. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Now that we are well into 2019 with almost an entire month under our belts, it seems like a good time to stop talking about what we hope to accomplish this year and start taking action on it. People often choose their New Year’s resolutions based on something they want to improve on from the year before, and looking back on 2018 there was a lot that can be improved upon. There were many successful movements and events that rose to prominence throughout the year like the “Women’s March” and “March for Our Lives” that can be applauded and added upon this year; and there were plenty of scandals like the one accompanying the appointment of Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that should hopefully be avoided this year. However, one thing that should be at the top of everyone’s lists of things to improve upon in 2019 is the way that we are approaching climate change and the treatment of our environment.

One does not have to think very hard to realize that our environment was becoming more and more restless in 2018. The huge numbers of disastrous hurricanes and other weather events that hit not only the U.S., but other countries around the world was unprecedented. The majority of people have by now read or been told that climate change is to blame for all of these strange weather events, and while most people believe this fact, there are still some who do not. However, regardless of the population’s own personal beliefs on the topic, the science supports that climate change is mostly to blame for the increasingly devastating change in our weather.

Recent reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the large amount of weather-related disasters in 2018 was not at all random. Instead, this report showed that carbon emissions in the United States leapt to the highest they have been since 2007, the exact opposite of the trend that scientists say we need to achieve if we hope to reverse the effects of climate change.

Most people who are aware of climate change and are concerned about it are already well aware of these facts. And if you are aware of climate change and not concerned by these facts then you should become concerned as soon as possible. However, with all of these “doomsday reports” telling us that we should be panicking, many people are unsure of ways to help or, more commonly, feel that the small acts of one individual will not matter in the grand scheme of things. This is simply untrue, and this mentality is hurting the planet almost as much as those that don’t believe in climate change at all. So, if you feel anxious and uncertain about the future of our planet but are unsure of how to deal with those emotions, here are some strategies you can use to clear your conscience and help the planet all at the same time:

Try to make your commute as “green” as possible. By utilizing public transportation or riding a bike to work, you are reducing the amount of pollution that you would release into the environment via your car. This obviously isn’t practical for everyone, but do the best you can.

Reduce the amount of animal-based products that you consume. Not everyone has to become a vegetarian or vegan, although it is a large way to reduce your own personal carbon footprint, but make an effort to eat less animal products one or two days per week. If you’re not convinced, go watch any documentary about the meat industry and you will be.

Figure out how to limit your amount of waste by recycling, reusing and composting. Not every town or college campus has a composting program, but if you are able to participate in one then you should. We are always told to recycle, but the amount of people who do not partake in this is astounding and ridiculous seeing as it is just so easy.

Use reusable bags instead of plastic or paper. Many people think that if they use paper bags they are saving the planet, but that is simply not true. Paper bags can be just as damaging as plastic bags—especially if the users have a clear conscience.

Feeling helpless in a crisis is a difficult situation, especially one as dire as climate change. While all of the tips listed here are probably intuitive and not news to anyone, the majority of people still do not utilize them. Everyone knows that we need to make a change, yet until more people start to adopt this mentality, we will all continue to feel hopeless.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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