Before I began Ranae Hanson’s Ecofeminist class at MCTC, climate change was not really on my radar. I was worried about pesticides and pollution but on a much smaller scale. I consider myself a relatively educated person and I’ve never thought of myself as wasteful. I thought recycling and avoiding unnecessary purchases was enough, that I was doing my part. I figured the government and people in general were working on the climate issue and it would all probably be just fine. I was in for a wake-up call.
We were instructed to watch the Showtime documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously” and I was horrified. Deforestation; ocean levels rising; Bangladesh sinking; droughts; melting glaciers. This is all happening NOW. I had thought of this climate issue as a far off, abstract problem. But no, this is affecting people now. And the most disconcerting part of it all is that the way I live day-to-day is directly contributing to these catastrophic events. Putting on tea, driving to work, running my humidifier. I am contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, which is causing the earth warm. And this is the cultural norm! I knew I had to make a change.
I started to pay attention to how much I was really wasting. The superfluous plastic packaging wrapped around everything I buy, for example. The way I was living felt undeniably, inherently wrong. How could this be? Since this discovery, I’ve been insatiable when it comes to information and answers about climate change. Everything I’ve learned about the degradation and exploitation of the earth and its resources has been devastating. I’ve been losing sleep. I’ve spent nights mourning. I felt debilitated by sadness and anger. It took me a while to completely grasp the severity and depth of what is happening to our earth.
I decided that I needed to channel that anger and passion into action. I felt I needed to take personal responsibility for the damage I’d already done and from here on out commit to being part of the solution. So in addition to the research I began joining groups and volunteering. I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby which is working to pass a carbon tax and dividend. I started volunteering for the Alliance for Sustainability. I went to a Speak-up workshop and threw myself into it all. I read Joanna Macy’s “Active Hope” and found it truly inspiring. Being around people who care and who are doing big things to help has given me so much strength and inspiration. I went from feeling stifled and hopeless because of this crisis to feeling empowered and enthusiastic about the future.
In the short time that I’ve been involved with efforts to address climate change, I’ve seen an amazing ripple effect. I’m a stylist at a salon and I’ve been talking with many clients, friends, family and acquaintances about excessive product and energy consumption. I’ve shared much of what I’ve learned to people I see everyday.
Here are some quotes from these people about things they’ve changed since we began a discussion about climate change:
“I intentionally select products with lower-waste packaging. I try not to grab to-go coffee all the time and instead make it at home or at work. I am conscientious about using paper towels. Mostly, I have allowed my mind to be open and aware of the impact that I make on a daily basis.”
“I stopped buying water bottles! I dug up a reusable water bottle and use it every day at work.”
“I skip showers/baths every few days and just use a washcloth so I don’t waste water. I’m trying to get my boyfriend to so the same. I made the switch to chemical-free beauty products and household cleaning products.”
My dad is even putting a rain garden in his back yard!
I began an ecology class in the winter and everything I’ve learned thus far has spread so quickly! It’s easy for individuals to feel that they are just one person. That in the grand scheme of things what they do doesn’t matter. I have proof that it does matter. And it’s palpable. Even these small changes are adding up to something bigger. We are slowly trying to change our way of thinking. Practicing more sustainable actions will only lead to more growth and positivity.
The most important thing I’ve learned so far in my short journey is that we need to start talking. Climate change is a serious problem, bigger than anything humanity has ever faced. It needs to stop being the elephant in the room. We need to be open and honest about it. We need to face it head on and truly embrace its reality, only then can we finally mobilize and take action. I think it needs to be discussed daily. It needs to become less of a fringe issue and enter into the mainstream. We cannot ignore it anymore. Get the conversation started!
Caylia Lindmeier is a stylist at Spring Salon in Minneapolis, a student at MCTC and a member of Citizens Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org).