Can I, personally, make a difference in our attempts to reduce or mitigate climate change impacts? Or is this instead a problem that needs to be addressed through policy changes?
At a party last weekend, my friend Mike said he had just bought an electricity monitor based on my recommendation, and admitted it was a gift for his wife — he said that all of our little individual efforts add up to nothing significant. He didn’t really believe that personal action will affect things; his wife does.
I have written down my personal attempts to make change here in this blog, now in my fifth year. Much of what I have done involves making small changes that have indeed added up, so perhaps you might guess that I disagree with Mike’s view. Is it really true that all of the little things I have done add up to nothing?
Yes: the changes I have made add up to nothing.
Even our personal reduction of our energy consumption by almost one half of its former levels (probably more) over these years has resulted in a dramatic reduction of our impact, it means very little. The problem is that we need is to get the other several billions of people living in industrialized countries to make even modest changes. And our governments to concur and set in motion a new set of policies that lead us back to sustainable occupation of the planet.
So why bother making personal changes when a wasteful neighbor (not Mike) undoes our efforts five times over?
The answer lies in how big changes tend to happen. I see myself as part of a movement. I do what I can to make the movement progress.
Mike bought an electricity meter because I had one. Theresa and I have Prius’s now — we bought them to replace our older less efficient cars. We were the first on our street to have a Prius. But we told several neighbors and friends how much we like them (and that they really do get good mileage and are big enough for almost everything). Now our street has nine Prius drivers. Did I cause this — maybe not all of them.
But my personal efforts matter because:
- By making changes, I learn what works and what doesn’t
- My purchases and support of products that enable green choices help make their companies viable
- People see and hear about what I do and a few might start doing things on their own
- I have learned enough to participate in the debates with actual knowledge and facts
- As more people come to see various realities, and understand, they influence their leaders
In short, my personal efforts affect others’. And their actions also affect others. It doesn’t take long to get to billions of people, actually.
I am actively participating in a movement that was underway long before I was part of it. Buying an electricity monitor is just one way that my actions affect others.
Oh, and I pay about $250/month less for energy than I would otherwise.