In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be a Climate Activist

6 Jan 2023

By Niamh Guiry

It’s January 2023, and with the dawn of a new year comes pressures to build healthy habits, aspire to new goals, and generally improve your life. The ‘new year, new me’ mindset is not something I’m fully on board with, but I have always liked the fresh start that the new year offers. I like thinking about the possible opportunities that lie ahead, and how I can work to make a difference. Whether you like the idea of new year's resolutions or not, you can’t deny that if there was ever a time to make a resolution to take climate action, it’s now.

It’s January 2023, and on a global scale, we are still not making the radical changes that are needed to avoid climate disaster and devastating biodiversity loss. Some people see the facts of climate change and the alarmist headlines and resign themselves to a future of climate catastrophe. This Christmas, I had relatives say to me that it doesn’t matter what we do, arguing that anthropogenic climate change is too far gone and that there’s no turning back. Not to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, but I think that this is exactly what the fossil fuel industry and powerful multinationals want us to believe.

They want us to think that we have reached the tipping point and that any action we take, on an individual or systemic level, is pointless. Why? Because that allows them to continue doing exactly what they have been doing for decades: profiting off the exploitation of our people and the demise of our planet. Climate scientist Prof Michael E. Mann calls this ‘inactivism’. We’ve generally moved past the point of climate denialism (the science is clear), and now polluters are using new tactics of deflection, delay, division, despair-mongering, and doomism to disempower us.

What better way to stick it to the world’s greatest polluters than to become a climate activist? You don’t necessarily need to call yourself an activist to make a difference. Some people don’t like these labels, and that’s understandable. What really matters is that you use your voice to fight for a better and sustainable world for all. What form that takes is really up to you. Some people thrive leading protests and organising events while others discover their strengths in research or out in the field. It’s about finding what sparks your inner fire and running with it. What issues anger you, what inspires you, and what injustice have you seen that you want to tackle? The next step is to get proactive. If you wait around for someone else to take action, you could be waiting forever. You’re someone and you have the power to do something.

That all said, I don’t want to sugarcoat this topic. As someone who has been involved with climate activism for the past 5 years, I am all too familiar with the roller coaster that is climate action. I know how rewarding it can be to work in grassroots climate activist groups and how empowering it feels to find a community of people who care deeply about the same issues as you. I also know how draining it can feel to put all of your time and energy into something, and still feel like you’re not making enough progress. The climate and biodiversity crises have consumed all aspects of my life. Whether through my PhD research, part-time work, volunteering, and personal life, I can’t just clock out from these issues at 5pm. There are worries and fears for the future that are always lurking in my mind. But there is also a strong determination to avoid the climate cataclysm that so many speak about. I sometimes joke with my friends that this is almost like reverse climate denialism. The world that lies before us, if we continue on our current trajectory, is unthinkable to me, and I refuse to accept that my future is going to be a world of relentless heat waves, deadly storms, and forced mass migration, a bleak planet without our weird and wonderful wildlife.

While I do at times still feel overwhelmed when I read about the latest IPCC report or the inadequate action being taken by our political leaders, I find that it can help to think about what kind of world we could create if we worked together and used the solutions available to us to tackle the climate crisis.

It’s January 2023 and we still have time. In a world where you can be anything, why not be a climate activist?