The ‘climate change’ talked about in textbooks and news reports often seems like an intractable, impossible problem. When I was in high school, I struggled to comprehend the magnitude, urgency, and causes of the crisis. It was often presented as something that only smart engineering and investment could invent a way out of.
The simple reality is that our entire society is based on burning. Burning coal creates power; burning petroleum moves cars and trucks. These emissions have to go somewhere. If you burnt these things in a closed room, you’d suffocate. But instead, we're relying on our disappearing forests to create breathable air.
If we continue at this rate, within just 20 years the average amount of CO2 in the Earth's air will rise enough to equal a stuffy room today — making “a breath of fresh air” a thing of the past. We can’t allow that to happen.
Institutions like UC Berkeley put a lot of resources into studying and quantifying ecological destruction. But that's not enough.
We need to pull the fire alarm; kill the exams and put the profit bonanza on ice.
Only we — in collective projects of abolition, rather than as individual consumers or policy-makers — can hope to stop extraction and dispossession at home and abroad. The survival of the world depends on the end of the one we're living in now, which connects us only fleetingly through consumption, war, and profit.
Consumption in the global North does have an outsize impact on the rest of the world, however, so even simple choices do make a meaningful difference. Here are some ideas.
Avoid Air Travel
One of the single most significant things you can do is to avoid traveling by airplane. A single flight generates the same amount of carbon emissions as an average person in many countries does in an entire year.
Oakland is currently considering a major airport expansion, which would lock in emission increases for generations.
Consider traveling by train or bus instead. In California, you can ride the train to LA, the Central Valley, and San Diego. It takes longer, but the difference is less when you consider the amount of time you would have spent in security and waiting for your bags. Plus, there’s comfy seats, a snack car, and people to socialize with.
The Bay Area has a robust network for getting things cheap or used – see the resources in the contact list for details. Look first for used furniture, electronics, and other goods. You’ll save money and keep it local.
Understand the crisis
The different variants of COVID-19 were highly publicized during the pandemic, and we adapted our behavior accordingly. We should be paying the same attention to the different sources of emissions, and the specific gases – such as carbon dioxide and methane – which cause climate breakdown.
Join a forest defense or pipeline stoppage. Make demands of your employer. Quit your bank; switch to a credit union. Boycott Amazon and sabotage Elon’s rockets.