By: Dania Ahmed
There are two kinds of ways to enact significant change, these ways manifest themselves into the two distinct avenues of individual change and systematic change. A topic which I personally find very interesting. Initially in regards to the climate crisis, I found myself instinctively inclined towards agreeing that significant change can only occur through change enacted by the government which then seeds itself into society and consequently individuals as well. But upon discussion with one of my peers who held the opposing view, I became stuck in the middle. I believe I was inherently drawn to systematic change because I thought individual change takes too long, we still have many individuals who do not even believe in the climate crisis, so how can individual action be feasible? In a geography class I took in first year we were introduced to the concept of Catastrophism or Climate Anxiety, and upon further reflection I feel as if those were the underlying tones to my initial thoughts. This idea of impending doom at a global scale takes on an alarmist narrative that subsequently causes nihilistic thoughts and diminishes hope in individual change. In the following video the concept of eco-anxiety was explored, but what I found most interesting were the comments.
I would encourage others to look through the comments and reflect on the different viewpoints presented. I personally found some comments such as,
“we ARE yelling at rich people. We ARE yelling at the government … If we don’t dramatically change the global energy consumption and the type of energy used, it will create a feedback loop that will eventually and inevitably lead to mass extinction. Individual action won’t change this. An individual is powerless to stopping this.”
that portrayed dissatisfaction with individual change to stand in stark contrast with other comments such as
“Wow, I don’t feel this at all. I became a Environmental scientist, the more I learn, the more empowered I feel, the better I feel to take action.” that show optimism in individual change.
What is interesting to note though, is that this alarmist narrative presents the climate crisis as a non-political issue when in fact it is highly political. A general consensus that I picked up on from my own lived experiences in environmental activism is that it is through the avenues of minimalism, legislation, population control, carbon tax cap and trade, and vegetarianism that both individual and systematic change are needed to make significant strides in solving this climate crisis. This is something I came to whole heartedly agree with because individuals can only do so much, and the government can also only implement policing on environmental issues to a certain extent. I feel as if once both “parties” are able to meet each other halfway, then a major ontological shift in societal values can take hold and we may become eligible to enter a new era of ecological prosperity.