September challenge: Organize

We all know I love individual action, because 1) I’m a type-A control freak, and 2) small daily actions, especially repeated by others, add up and can create new norms. I will never stop celebrating small acts of concerted care.

But it’s also true that we’re past the point where our individual sacrifices are enough to prevent climate catastrophe. (Blame Exxon and the rest of the Big Oil cronies for shortening our runway.) The next decade is the most important in human history. I can’t stress that enough. We’re through roughly 90% of our carbon budget for keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, and the carbon we release now pushes us ever closer to tipping points that lock us into the doom spiral for thousands of years. (And while I’ll be a ghost frolicking with all my dead pets then, I don’t want to haunt an Earth that is a fiery hellscape.) We need bold, dramatic action, and that means we need to get the people involved who can pull the biggest levers.

So this month, conveniently one that holds an election in Canada, we’re focusing on power in numbers and the collective action that can make a dramatic difference.

Show up and yell.

Climate change makes me want to scream on the regular, but it’s nice to do it with a purpose. And this month I can!

As the election machine charges on, it’s more important ever to remind the politicians who want to lead that bold climate action is vital to a liveable future. And noisy street mobs tend to hold their attention.

350.org is organizing a day of action across the country on September 8, which is the day of the French-language leaders’ debate and one day before the English one. From Ucluelet on Vancouver Island to St. John’s, Newfoundland, people will gather to demand a halt to the expansion of fossil fuel investments and a just transition that leaves no one left behind. Even the town of my alma mater, population 4,000, is taking part, so look for a gathering near you. Torontonians, I’ll be at Queen’s Park, making enough noise to rouse Doug Ford wherever the Conservative Party has hidden him until the votes are counted. Bring your family, friends, colleagues, even your dog (dogs wearing signs are good for morale, imho).

I know it’s the middle of the workday for many, but a lot of employers will understand you taking a couple hours to fight for the future of the human race — continued existence is good for business! And if you can take your kids out of school, absolutely do that. They are the ones inheriting a diminished world: show them early on that they can be part of the solution and that when everything was on the line, you stood up and did something.

Back a politician who takes the climate crisis seriously.

On September 20, Canadians get to take a major climate action: we vote. But before you vote for anyone, let them know that climate change is a priority for you. Mention it when they knock on your door, send them a letter and/or sign a petition, and talk to others about how your vote is climate-plan contingent.

How to tell if someone’s platform is actually green? Environmental Defence has a handy guide to sort the poseurs from the real deal. But it’s worth saying: a vote for the planet and all the life on it forever is not a vote for the Conservative Party, which voted down putting “climate change is real” in their policy handbook — the barest minimum action, like having “open eyes” on your to-do list in the morning.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can volunteer for your local climate-friendly candidate or phone bank for ones in other ridings with strong eco advocates. This isn’t just about adding to a party’s might, it ensures there are dedicated climate warriors in various parties. Though I’m an elder millennial and thus not afraid of talking on the phone, cold-calling strangers is still a hot nightmare fora people-pleasing introvert. But I decided that my climate anxiety was greater than stranger danger and that I needed to know I was doing everything I could. Imagine a Conservative government is elected and I knew I could have made some phone calls and didn’t? Anyway, I did it and did not dissolve into a puddle of human goo. I’ll even do it again. (Huge shout out to my friend Travis, who also phone banked in the same time slot and was the accountability partner I needed to not bail for a cat-flossing emergency.)

Raise some funds.

Maybe you can’t march and just got hives at the mention of a phone bank, but you can still contribute. Host a fundraiser and donate that cash to an organization pushing for ambitious climate action. When it comes to cooking up a good event, be creative, COVID-safe, and ambitious. It also helps if it’s something you genuinely like to do: hosting a wine tasting or biking 1,000 km in a month or selling some art.

This is the third year I’ll be selling bouquets from my garden and hosting a DIY flower arrangement party. Local flowers are not only much more eco-friendly (more on that here), but bouquet-making brings me max joy and satisfaction. I’ll be donating 100% of the money to 350.org, which is doing climate-focused campaign organizing, and to the Indigenous Environment Network, an alliance of Indigenous Peoples working to protect the planet from contamination and exploitation. (For example, it’s currently supporting groups protesting the Line 3 pipeline.) You can even create your own slick fundraising page through CanadaHelps that allows people to get a tax credit (if the organization qualifies).

Fundraising is another good place to get kids involved: I will always brake for a child selling Rice Krispie squares.


Wins of the Week

“We need courage, not hope. Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive. We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it. Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending. Little molecules, random in their movement, add together to a coherent whole. Little lives do not. But here we are, together on a planet radiating ever more into space where there is no darkness, only light we cannot see.” — Kate Marvel, NASA scientist, On Being

Even though we’re focusing on collective actions, you better believe I’m still tossing the floral confetti for the individual ones too. For example:

  • Alex joined her local co-op, and after harvesting the pears from her tree, brought them in to share with fellow members. (More on why co-ops are great here.)

  • Lyn changed her default search engine to Ecosia and then shared the link and installation info with everyone in her office pod. (Another easy way to green your workplace!) I’m coming up on 10,000 searches on my home computer, which works out to around 222 trees planted, just by going about my business.

  • Victoria ordered concentrated cleaner tabs from Blueland, which she’s been quite happy with. Lower shipping emissions (because you’re not shipping water around) and no new plastic container required, plus products ring in about $2 a tab. She says, “I’ve tried some pretty shitty eco cleaners, particularly glass cleaner, and this leaves our place spotless.”

Have a recent triumph that you’d like to share? Hit reply or post it in our FB group. Individual actions can still be celebrated collectively. I’d also love to know how you’re taking collective action this month. If you’re nervous, be brave. No amount of social awkwardness is worse than wildfires or superstorms or endless heatwaves, human death or species extinction. A little more bravery now means a lot less will be required later.

xo

JK

Five Minutes for Planet is written by me, Jen Knoch, and edited by Crissy Calhoun. Opening photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels