If you’re paying any attention at all to the environmental news of the day, chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed at best, despairing at the worst, and you may be understandably skeptical about welcoming more of that into your inbox. Googling the 10 best apocalypse go-bags or escaping into The Real Housewives of Boise, Idaho, may start to seem like a better use of five minutes than reading a newsletter. But give me just five minutes to change your mind.
The problems are definitely massive and daunting. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we need to hold warming to 1.5C above industrial levels by 2030 to prevent further climate chaos (storms, drought, famine, mass migration, death, species loss, and other stuff of blockbuster disaster movies).
And while we definitely need big, systemic solutions (read: ambitious action by government and corporations), part of changing the world is also changing the culture, creating the conditions for those bigger changes to be accepted. And culture? We make it, and we can change it. Remember when reusable grocery bags weren’t really a thing? Now they’re totally normal, if not the norm. Same with recycling, composting, ride sharing, and those corkscrew CFL bulbs.
But wait, you might say, I’m not sure this is for me. I eat meat/drive an SUV/work in oil and gas/fly my private jet to exotic destinations/[insert eco vice here], and I’ve never once chained myself to an old tree. I don’t know if I’d call myself an “environmentalist.”
There’s a lot of guilt and shame and greener-than-thou rhetoric out there, but we all have our eco sins. We need to acknowledge that we’re up against seriously ingrained cultural norms, social pressures, discrimination, infrastructural limitations, economic considerations, evolutionary mind tricks, and more. There is no perfect environmentalist. (Not even Greta.)
We’re imperfect people working in an imperfect system in an imperfect world. That’s the bad news. The good news is that gives us hundreds, even thousands, of ways to improve. And every positive action we take will move the needle and make the future a better place to live. This newsletter won’t ask you to be perfect. It simply asks you to carve out five minutes (okay, sometimes ten . . .) once a week to learn something, then (hopefully) run with the suggestions that work for you. You can do anything for five minutes, right?
Here’s how this will go down: I’m going to focus on one topic each week. These may be a bigger environmental issue (say, water pollution or wildfires) or an area of regular life (think: coffee, cell phones, fashion). I’ll break down some key issues, bringing in the most relevant research I can find, and whenever possible I’ll also include links to podcasts, articles, books, or films that can help all my Hermione Grangers learn more.
We won’t be wallowing in the Pit of Climate Despair, but you will inevitably learn some things that are heavy and hard. Which is uncomfortable, but also important. So much of the terrible shit that is happening in our world continues to happen because we’re so separated from how our sausage, literal and figurative, is made. We need to know what’s going on if we’re going to make the decisions that are right for us, for our families, and for our communities and have a hope in hell at changing anything. We’re going to take the red pill, to use that Matrix analogy. But don’t worry, I’ll also give you the reality bending superpowers and flattering, formfitting leather you need to feel like you’re fighting the good fight, one slow-mo bullet dodge at a time.
Those superpowers come from taking action, and each newsletter will give you a bunch of prompts, in various shades of green, to do something about that week’s issue. We’re not all starting from the same place, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all do more. And even though some of this stuff might seem annoying or insignificant, it can feel really good to feel like you’re taking control of something.
We can also amp up our impact by taking what we’ve learned outside our home. You don’t have to picket on an oil tanker to be an activist: you can transform your workplace, your neighbourhood association, your church group or curling league. That is some of the most effective and important culture change you can do.
Listen, I know five minutes a week isn’t going to turn the good ship Earth around, at least not right away. But until we’re consistently informed and involved, nothing is going to change. With so many problems, especially the big, amorphous ones, the hardest thing can be just finding a place to start. So let’s get started.
Here’s your first assignment to get on the road to environmental badassery.
Subscribe to this newsletter! We dig in next week.
For bonus points, share this newsletter on your socials and invite people to subscribe, especially people who might not read this kind of thing on the regular. Maybe even forward this to three friends and let them know you’re getting greener, and you want them to too. (It’s like getting yourself a gym buddy, but you don’t even have to look at an elliptical.)
And even if you don’t choose to peer pressure your friends into putting on their green goggles, know that you’re not in this alone. This newsletter is a community, and I want to share your wins and wisdom too. There’s a whole gang of others out there, passing for normal, but secretly carrying a homemade produce bag and writing letters to government on the sly. After all, we don’t have to be radical to be everyday revolutionaries.
Are you ready? Let’s do this.