A boy stands at sunset, looking like he’s holding the sun. He is engaging in climate action.
Photo Credit:
Adobe Stock
From apathy to empathy

How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Climate Action in the New Year

Tess Santorelli
/
December 20, 2023

Beyond Denial: Confronting Climate Apathy as the Greater Threat

As we step into the New Year, a time traditionally marked by new beginnings, we invite you to reflect on one of the most pressing issues of our era — climate change. While climate denial has long been recognized as an obstacle to environmental action, a subtler yet equally dangerous adversary has emerged: climate apathy. Unlike denial, which outright rejects the premise of climate change, apathy reflects a dangerous indifference or lack of concern about the crisis.

While climate apathy is dangerous, it’s also understandable. Most of us have felt it at some point. Watching the world burn on our phone screens can make anyone feel overwhelmed or numb at the idea of making a meaningful impact. However, overcoming climate apathy is crucial in our journey towards a sustainable future. In fact, once you get past climate apathy, the fight for climate justice can be invigorating. The best way to start is to arm yourself with information.

The Paris Climate Accord: A Milestone with Limitations

When you think of recent progress in global climate action, the 2015 Paris Agreement may come to mind. The meeting marked a significant step in global climate policy. World leaders agreed on ambitious targets, notably limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero carbon emissions. Despite the metrics being symbolically powerful, the 1.5°C target didn’t actually come from a concrete scientific basis — they were the result of political negotiations. On top of that, the targets have since been treated somewhat uncritically, with many countries likely not even meeting that goal.

Decoding Climate Science

Climate science is intricate and ever-evolving. The 1.5°C target, although a useful focal point for policy and activism, does not encapsulate the full range of possible climate outcomes or solutions. For example, even if global temperatures are stabilized at this level, significant impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme weather events will still occur and require adaptation and resilience measures.

The Greater Threat: Climate Apathy

Climate apathy poses a more insidious risk than outright denial. It represents a disengagement from the issue, a sense that the problem is too big, too remote, or too complex to tackle. This indifference leads to inaction, which is arguably more dangerous than denial. Apathy stems from a sense of overwhelm or resignation, fueled by the enormity of the climate crisis and a feeling of powerlessness in effecting change.

There are a few ways to tackle climate apathy, but one of the most powerful ones is communication. Talking to your friends and family about climate change and the importance of action can turn apathy into empathy. Focusing on shared values and concerns, like the well-being of future generations, can be an effective approach. Here are some strategies to facilitate these conversations:

  • Future of Grandchildren and Children: Emphasize how actions taken today will impact the lives of future generations. Discuss the kind of world you want your grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or children to inherit.
  • Share Personal Stories and Observations: Sometimes personal anecdotes about how climate change affects your local community can be more impactful than abstract data. Talk about changes you've noticed in weather patterns, local plants and wildlife, or community issues related to climate change.
  • Emphasize Health Benefits: Discuss how actions to mitigate climate change, like reducing pollution, can lead to immediate health benefits. For example, less air pollution can mean fewer asthma attacks and healthier hearts.
  • Talk About Economic Impacts: Highlight how climate change can affect the economy, from increasing insurance costs due to extreme weather events to the potential for new jobs in renewable energy sectors.
  • Find Common Ground: Look for areas where family members might already be engaged in climate-positive actions, like recycling or conserving water, and build on these.
  • Stay Positive and Solution-Focused: Focus on positive actions and the potential for change, rather than doom and gloom, to inspire hope and action.
  • Be Respectful and Listen: Acknowledge that everyone has different perspectives and concerns. Listening attentively can help find common ground and mutual understanding.
  • Use Reliable Sources to Back Your Points: Refer to credible sources for information when discussing climate change to avoid spreading misinformation.
  • Talk About the Beauty of Nature: Reminisce about shared experiences in nature, like trips to the beach or hikes in the forest, and discuss the importance of preserving these natural environments.
  • Highlight Community and Global Solidarity: Emphasize how climate action can bring communities together and how global efforts can lead to a more connected world.
  • Avoid Technical Jargon: Use simple and relatable language instead of scientific jargon, which can be intimidating or confusing.

Remember, the goal of these conversations is to open a dialogue and share perspectives, not necessarily to convince someone immediately. Patience and understanding can go a long way in having productive discussions about climate change.

Greenwashing: The Misdirection in Climate Politics

Compounding the issue of apathy is the prevalence of greenwashing by corporations and governments. This practice involves making misleading claims about environmental practices to appear more environmentally friendly than they are. Greenwashing creates a veneer of sustainability while masking ongoing harmful practices, leading to cynicism and further disengagement from the public.

Empowering Individual Action

Despite these challenges, there is significant power in individual action. Each of us can contribute to a sustainable future through everyday choices, from conserving energy to supporting sustainable products and advocating for green policies.

As we embark on this New Year, let's challenge ourselves to move beyond apathy. This involves staying informed about climate issues, understanding the limitations of political targets, and recognizing the importance of our individual actions. Let's make a New Year's resolution not just for personal improvement but for planetary health.

A Collective Call to Action

The fight against climate change requires a collective effort. Overcoming climate apathy and demanding transparency and authenticity in environmental policies are critical steps in this journey. As we navigate through the new year, let's commit to informed and proactive engagement with climate issues, recognizing that our collective actions can make a significant difference.

Understanding the complexities of climate science and the dangers of climate apathy and greenwashing is essential. This New Year, let's embrace a resolution to actively participate in the climate narrative, transforming concern into action for a sustainable future.

Most recent posts
Save money. save energy.

Related Articles

See all >
A family composting in New York City
Waste management of the future

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and…Compost?! Your Essential Guide to NYC's (New) Waste Management

Everything you need to know about New York City’s new waste management programs, which lead with sustainability.

A little boy sleeping in a cute nursery kids rooms
Green nurseries

Energy-Efficient Homes: Nursery and Children’s Rooms Edition!

Some unique ideas on how to make your kids’ living space energy efficient and green! Everything you need to know.

A family doing some summer gardening
Garden carbon footprint

How to Get Ready for Summer Gardening Early in the Year

Early planning and sustainable practices can make your summer garden both bountiful and environmentally friendly, everything you need to know.