This article is dedicated to Berta Cáceres (above), environmental activist, indigenous leader and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for “a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam” at the Río Gualcarque. In March 2016, she was murdered in her home by a privately hired armed group trained by the US military.

This article is designed to inform you of essential facts, prompt you to reassess certain behaviours and empower you to be part of the solution.

It’s really not that hard

Thousands of environmental activists around the world are being threatened, detained, silenced and attacked every day for preventing illegal and legal destruction of the natural world. The natural world that we all depend on and are connected to. In 2019, well over 200 environmental activists were killed up from 164 the year before.

Half of these killings occurred in Columbia and the Philippines where forest is being cleared for agriculture and ranching that feeds the western addiction to beef and palm oil. It’s not hard to directly link your weekly meat shop to the murder of good people.

The very fact that ordinary people are being murdered by oil giants, mining groups, logging companies and cattle ranchers should be enough to encourage those of us who aren’t risking our lives to perform simple actions – like switching our banks, ditching fast fashion, using renewable energy and cutting down our meat intake. It’s really not hard compared with those on the front line fighting for all of our futures.

Paulo Paulino, murdered by illegal loggers in September 2019 protecting his ancestral home in the Amazon rainforest

Every action is a form of activism

Activism doesn’t just involve waving placards and getting arrested. It is any specific action designed to bring about necessary change. Whether that’s the food you buy, the bank you use or who you vote for; every action is a form of activism. And since we are all therefore activists, we can all have an effect.

Progress to a better future requires collective action, but it doesn’t require a majority. It is a surprising phenomenon that if only a few percent of people act, then demands are likely to be met. So, individual actions do make a difference.

Everyday actions matter most and consumers are inherently powerful through the choices they make. Every time you choose to or not to purchase something, you are making a difference.

You don’t need to be perfect, but try to ask yourself in the choices you make; does this action fuel or tackle the climate and ecological crisis, and therefore the future of my family?

Don’t hold back. Get involved

The most effective, enjoyable and long term way to be an activist is to be part of a community. You will feel supported, empowered and it might just change your life. Don’t try and be an activist by yourself when you don’t need to.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of organisations around the world that you can get involved with. Whether it’s planting trees, campaigning for nature, helping charities, lobbying government, petitioning companies, educating communities or more direct action.

Non-violent direct action

History has shown that non-violent direct action works. For half a century, environmentalists and scientists have been warning of the dangers of climate change and biodiversity collapse but the change needed has been constantly resisted. Direct action is not only required, but overdue.

Being involved in a non-violent direct action group can be incredibly empowering and effective. Make your decision carefully as countries react differently to mass civil disobedience. In the UK, you may be arrested; given a hot meal in a private cell and maybe fined for a first time offence. In stricter countries, your treatment could be far harsher – so do your research.

You don’t have to get arrested to take part in non-violent direct action. These groups need a lot of support for those who are willing to lose their liberty. Whether it’s catering, logistics, graphic design, administration or legal aid, there is a role for everyone when it comes to climate action.

Prominent non-violent direct action groups

Consumer activism

Every time we shop we are making a statement. We know the impact of fast fashion, unsustainable farming, single use plastic, fossil fuel energy and other every day consumer actions. When we willingly purchase these items, we are consciously choosing not to act on the climate and ecological breakdown.

Never underestimate your power as a consumer. Products and services exist based on consumer demand. It really is as simple as; if we don’t buy it, they won’t make it. So think carefully about every purchase.

A simple process is, before a purchase ask yourself, “do I need it or want it?” If you need it, is that the best choice for the environment that you can afford? And if you want it, will it truly make you happy?

Political activism

The systems that exist are the systems that got us into this crisis. In order to save our future and protect those we love, we need to change our global systems. But until then, the one’s we have are what we have to work within.

Democracy is a broad term, and different democracies vary in their level of effectiveness, representation and corruption. However, it is a near global right that any citizen can contact their government representative on a topic of importance to them, and everyone should expect a reply.

Citizens should be able to call, email and write to their representatives. They may also be able to meet with them in person. There is no limit to the number of times this can be done.

The simplest step into climate activism is to simply email, call or write to your government representative on the issues you feel most strongly about.

Educational activism

One of the most powerful forms of activism is education. Most school curriculums around the world pay lip service to the climate catastrophe that is already unfolding and threatens our way of life. Some curriculums do nothing at all. But it’s not just the youth being let down. Most adults do not understand the scale of the crisis, shielded from the truth and size of the emergency. They are emotionally disconnected and therefore do not act with the urgency needed.

Ask yourself when was the last time you spoke to a friend about the climate crisis and discussed what can be done about it? When did you ask your boss what their net zero plan was? Do your children and young family members really know what is happening? Do your parents?

You don’t need to be an expert to understand the facts and relay them to friends and family. The facts are clear, simple and undeniable. By talking to your friends, family and colleagues, you are helping and protecting them from the tragedy that is unfolding. So never be afraid to speak out. You are on the right side of history.

The more we speak, the more the climate and ecological emergency rises up the agenda in our communities, corporations, institutions and governments.

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Democratising the conversation on climate

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