Turning Climate Panic Into Action

Lava flows, lighting the surrounding landscape with an orange-red glow. Smoke and steam rise. The sky is cloudy and is orange and pink with the sunset and the reflection of the lava flow.
Lava flow at Volcano National Park. Incredibly beautiful, but not what we want to be moving towards globally.
April 30, 2022
Julian Dockhorn

Last month I became terrified about the state of the climate. I’ve known since I was a kid in the early 1980s that we need to change what we’re doing, or we’re going to drive ourselves to extinction. That’s not an exaggeration: when scientists say “runaway global warming” they mean that the Earth could become like Venus, with temperatures over 700 degrees.

We haven’t slowed down our climate impact since then; we’ve accelerated. What changed my concern to panic was learning about the heat dome weather conditions in Antarctica. The temperatures ranged between 20 and 90 degrees higher than normal, and it rained on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Think about what it would mean where you live to have temperatures that much above normal. Daytime highs for us could be 160 degrees. We should not wait to experience that in our own homes before we act. This is an actual emergency right now.

I was thinking about that while cuddling my 6-year-old as he was falling asleep. He was restless, and picking up on my mood. I was completely anxious, thinking that we have no idea how fast climate change can progress. We keep blowing past the worst-case predictions. How soon do we get to a tipping point?

I needed my kid to sleep so I could finish chores and get to sleep myself. And I realized he needed me to calm down, so I found a way. I thought about when he’s an adult, if I’m lucky enough to be alive, and what I’d like to tell him I did. I want to say: I was so scared and upset and I put those feelings to work.

I am not going to give up in despair. I love my life, I love my family, and I will do what needs to be done to change things. I will do it now, and for the rest of my life. We need serious change now. We don’t have to choose between avoidance and panic.Together, we can get past the sense of overwhelm and turn our concern into action. I am asking you to actively join me in this.

It helps me focus to know that things are so incredibly dire that absolutely everything we do counts. I also know we need to do things with serious impact, not just the things that make us feel good. Installing solar panels or switching to a hybrid/electric car costs a lot and takes a lot of effort, but there are simpler, faster, cheaper things that can actually have a bigger impact.

Here’s one: cut eating animal products by 90%. Methane emissions have a very rapid climate turnaround, so reducing methane production by reducing the amount of farmed animals can help us tremendously, and quickly. Even the most climate-friendly animal-based protein has a higher impact than the worst plant-based protein.

I’ve started reducing the animal products we buy. My family has cut the meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, and milk we get, and we’re going to continue reducing. And of course we’ve turned the heat down, and won’t be running the air conditioner as much as we used to.

This is just the start, but it’s something, and we will continue. I’ve started talking with my friends, my parents, and further relatives about it. And you can too. I want to be an active part of the shift we make towards correcting the oncoming climate crisis, in my actions and in my influence.

I also do things daily, as a reminder. I turn off the power strip for the TV and media devices. Every time I hit that switch, I remind myself this doesn’t save a huge amount of electricity, but it helps a tiny bit, and more importantly it helps remind me that we need to do more.

Please decide something you can do today. Please start reducing the animal products you use. Please look at what shifts you can make in your home and your community. Please save the world with me. It will take all of us.

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