The one reason to act on climate change – no matter your beliefs

Ho boy. I have been thinking about this post for weeks now. Making figures, thinking about argument structure. Trying to ensure I’m avoiding any logical fallacies.

It’s not that I am never concerned about that at all in any of the other posts, but having environmental science as my field of study does often put me in the thick of it. Suffice to say that I have had a lot of time to think about these things in general for the past 5 years and more.

Before we dive right in, let’s do a little terminology update. At least in my neck of the woods, there is a lot less talk about global warming these days. That is because there has been a consensus among a lot of scientists to make a switch to the words climate change. It covers a larger range of effects, and is not as prone to ridicule with pointless statements such as “But it snowed in New York this winter!”.

That little detail aside, let’s dig right in. 

Figures makes everything better

In the personal finance world, we are fond of tables, figures and graphs to illustrate more complex concepts. Environmental science and science in general is much the same. Say it in graphics, if you can!

Now, I have seen a figure like this before, or a figure with a similar message. I am afraid that I cannot for the life of me remember where though, or how to find it. If anyone knows the original article where a matrix like this is mentioned, please let me know!

The one reason to act on climate change. The alternatives are simply too ghastly.
Do you want to get caught in the “Do nothing” bracket if climate change is real? I sure don’t. The red bracket should also have things like mass migrations, economic collapse, general unrest and plenty of other “fun” things.

Very simplified, these are our options. Both as singular persons, families, organisations and governing bodies of various countries.

The crux of the matter is that doing nothing if climate change is real, has such devastating and negative consequences, that any other option is preferable.

Resilience

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about some frugal inspiration we can take from previous generations of WWII. Perhaps what I really should have been writing about was gardening, gardening and more gardening. If you had a spot of land, you were pretty much under obligation to grow some food, to ensure some supplies and a higher level of resilience, if rations ran out for a time.

If climate change is real, and we all do nothing, I think it would be a prime time to get back to that kind of self-sufficiency attitude. Luxury crops around the equator on which we have come dependant, like coffee and cocoa, are already suffering lower yields.

Will transport and cargo routes be as stable if heftier weather becomes more commonplace? Will we still be able to pick up apples from New Zealand and oranges from Spain at our local grocery shop? Fruit can by many measures be seen as a luxury, but cereal crops are not exempted, as we saw quite forcefully in Norway just this last summer when a large fraction of crops in the west simply rained away in one of the wettest summers in recent memory.

How does this relate to personal finance?

For me, getting interested in things like financial independence is largely a question of stability. I’ve felt the brute force roller coaster that comes with being at times employed and unemployed when you don’t have an adequate emergency fund. It is something I’d like to avoid, if I can.

To do so, I intend to build a stable life of very low expenses. With a paid off home and trying to grow most of our food. I fear to trust my investment dividends 100% because, well, I don’t believe if we do nothing and the climate gets really mad… Well, a world that might be struggling with food insecurity and rampant weather destroying homes on a regular basis, will probably not have the most stable investment climate either.

What if you go to your bank tomorrow and find… nothing, like Icelanders did in 2008? I don’t want to think about it, but it has already happened, and it can happen again.

I would love to be wrong

Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about all these things. Maybe investments will soar to all new highs as new companies get rich on technologies that protect everyone from effects if we decide to do nothing? Maybe things will never get as bad as the models predict?

But because I don’t know, and my education has given me ample reason to believe in the models, I try to mitigate the risks as best I can.

Trust me when I say, I would much rather be proven wrong 100 times over and live in a stable and secure world where my savings do nothing but multiply for the rest of my life.

Such stability is historically rare though. We tend to forget, but it has only been 70 years since the last world war. Which is not to ignore that areas in the world that currently are war zones. I know the 4% rule survived even the world war, but what can I say? I’m an anxious investor.

What can we do?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? The cause for so much fear, anxiety and decision fatigue. The issues seem so large that it is easier to simply shut out the world and do nothing.

In my experience, if you try to do everything at once, you will quickly become overwhelmed, stressed and demotivated. So my advice to you is to not do that.

Instead start with small things. Actionable things that make you feel like you are contributing. Such as bringing your own bags to shop, choose an apple that isn’t wrapped in shrink wrap or how about adding more plants and less animal products to your diet? It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you should not berate yourself if you forget one day or stumble on the way. A lot of the time, the hardest thing is getting started. Once you do it is easier to gain momentum.

If you feel like you are ready to level up from small changes in your immediate area, you could try things like writing to local politicians, voting with your dollar (or non-voting by not spending on things you disagree with, which is also efficient in this commercial world we live in), joining and/or donating to causes and organisations you believe in.

In general, there is only one thing that makes politicians take a stance on anything, and that is overwhelming pressure from voters.

Let’s get cracking!

Do you have any incredible tips for engaging with friends, family and even politicians and legislators? We’d love to hear all about it, so please leave a comment!

The one reason to act on climate change, no matter your personal beliefs!

 

18 Comments on “The one reason to act on climate change – no matter your beliefs

  1. I wish food (and everything really) wasn’t wrapped in so much packaging. We do recycle as much as we can but it would be better if there was less of it in the first place.

    I’ve reused bags for the shopping for many years, but since the 5p carrier bag charge was introduced in the UK a year or so ago its had a striking effect on encouraging people to reuse bags which is great.

    Only yesterday I was really pleased to see in the news that London will introduce lots of drinking water taps for people to refill bottles. It always depresses me to notice how many empty plastic bottles are in public bins. Admittedly, the tap water here in the UK isn’t the tastiest but just leaving it to stand for a minute or so takes away most of the chlorine taste. Tap water is the only liquid I drink 95% of the time as I dislike hot drinks, so it’s possible to at least get used to it!

    • Yeah, it is really difficult when packaging is everywhere. I miss the onion and potato dispensers from when I was a child!

      Having lived in London, I can testify that the tap water varies wildly in tastiness. I actually went so far as to buy a bottle which fitted a metal tea strainer, just so I could neutralise some of the flavour. Hopefully those refill stations would have tasty water to encourage people to bring a bottle!

  2. This was the perfect post to read on my way to work. Now I’m amped up and ready to tackle the day! Honestly, in my personal life, there’s no one place I can make a bigger impact than in my career in sustainable building. Just sometimes I stuggle with remembering that and would rather be home hanging my laundry out back 😉

    And yeah. Climate change is so freaking real. It’s already worse than what the models originally predicted.

    • That is awesome! I’ve been following this woman/business called Sigi Koko for years, and the sustainable houses she builds are just gorgeous. One day!

      And double yeah to the climate change models. I recently came across this article about climate scientists “erring on the side of least drama” to such an extent that they would rather underreport their findings than exaggerate. With all the “alarmist” accusations being thrown their way (when the opposite is happening) is pretty alarming!

  3. Another great post! I started the year saying that thus was the year we were going to be more eco-friendly. I wanted to get to the end of 2018 and be completely shopping small. Easier said than done though. There is so much waste in the supermarkets, but very few bulk stores in my area. Then there’s the cost. With a family of 6, we need to take that into account too. I’m working on it though. Baby steps.
    Our goal this year is to build up savings for our eco-build. It’s funny – we always knew we wanted to build a sustainable house, even before we were married, but can you believe we’ve never put anything away for it?! Now we are, as it’s suddenly the most important thing to us for raising our family.

    • Yeah, it can be really hard to turn habits around. But slow and steady wins the race, and every bit counts! I hope to get to a primarily local lifestyle eventually as well, but it is a challenge when the system is not set up for it!

      We are saving for an eco house! It is so encouraging to see the savings grow and knowing what they are aimed for. 🙂

  4. Love this! This is essentially my life now – I’m constantly running/planning workshops on waste reduction (on a strict budget) because it’s so important. Taking on individual change is great, but it really only becomes highly effective when you start to engage with others!

    Having financial independence in an unstable, unlivable world is not a great plan!

    • That’s really cool! Waste management and moving from a linear to a circular economy is so important!

      I really wish the government would be brave and do more, but they only ever act on pressure from the public and re-election pressure. So we need the public to realise the risks one step (person) at a time!

  5. You are totally correct, the beauty of my frugal lifestyle is that I make sustainable choices without even trying. I shop at places that don’t offer bags – perfect! I don’t buy expensive steak often – perfect! I ride my bike whenever I can – perfect! I’m sure I could do even more, but I’m happy knowing that my frugal ways are good for more than just my pocketbook!

    • Yup! There is so much overlap between sustainability and frugality, it’s great! Getting those double whammys always help on the good old motivation!

  6. Very thought provoking article.

    Climate change or global warming is a scary concept with only the worst to imagine.

    To be honest, most of the times I take an ostrich-like approach to it, by digging my head in the sand, hoping that if I can’t see the world coming to an end (worst to imagine, remember?) the world will actually not come to an end.

    I know it’s silly and cowardly but I hope to do better on that front.

    In India though, I do believe we do better with the produce. Very few places, even in the biggest cities actually import food and wrap it up or anything. Maximum fruit and vegetable shopping happens on open hand carts. The meats, though mostly come packaged in plastic and styrofoam to take care of the hygiene levels.

    The government does try to ban plastic bags on and off but I have seen mounds of plastic lying unattended in a lot of urban centres. Garbage disposal is definitely not India’s strong point.

    I think it would be great to really go back to the roots some day.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment.

      I agree, it is a very scary concept, and we are already seeing some of the effects rippling across the world. I can totally understand being afraid and pushing it away.

      I agree that it sounds as if you have a much more resilient and local food system. In Norway, there are Farmer’s markets maybe once or twice a month, and then all plastic wrapped up supermarket food coming from far off. Not very resilient at all if anything was to happen!

      Garbage is difficult in and of itself. I really wish we could manage more of a cyclic economy, where “garbage” is only a very tiny fraction of our waste, the rest being recycled or used as raw material. We have a very, very long way to go for that though.

      All we can do is keep fighting!

  7. I grew up in small town, so when I moved to the city because that’s where all the jobs were, I honestly thought I’d end up going back to school. But what let me give it a chance was the fact that I would no longer need a car, I walked or used public transportation, I live in a more concentrated area, thus helping leave more nature untouched.

    We use our own bags and diligently recycle. The one thing I really wished? I had space for a garden! I finally broke down and toyed with potted gardening the past few years. Hoping to get a spot in a community garden.

    I still dream of having a bit of land that’s self sustained but at least my everyday actions help make progress.

    • I grew up in a small area as well! Though with public transportation available. Larger cities still baffle me, in some ways.

      I hear you on missing the space to garden! We have a little bit of space, but I don’t want to make too many changes to what is ultimately the landlord’s property. Right now I have two cardboard boxes full of various seeds started early

      Every bit helps. That is the big thing, isn’t it? 🙂

      • When you’re used to mid sized cities or smaller, large cities often seem overwhelming or an odd choice to live. Unless you’re the exception and can’t wait to get to the city. I assumed I’d move here, try it and leave with a few years. In the end though, Toronto is a cluster of neighbourhoods. So you find one that suits you and it’s not really different than a smaller area. Just better transit!

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