Coming into the inaugural spring retreat of the Climate Action Cohort I had one major question looming in the back of my mind. What is ‘climate action’?
Climate change is one of the most complex and challenging issues humans have ever faced. For some, climate change threatens to destroy their homes and for others climate change challenges their way of life. Environmentally, changing climates dramatically affect ecosystems in complex and unique ways across the globe. I don’t think you could design a more challenging problems for humans to solve. As a species, we are usually pretty good at solving short term problems, especially when those problems have dramatic effects. From fires to earthquakes, when disaster strikes, we band together to solve the problem. But the effects of climate change are slower and more gradual. It is therefore extremely hard to create a sense of urgency about an issue that might not directly affect me tomorrow, next week or next year.
This was the frame of mind I had entering the retreat. How can we, a group of 10 young people, possibly have an effect on this enormous and complex issue.
Then I met the climate action cohort. It is hard to describe the energy and passion present in a room of young people. We had ‘structured time’ with workshops and conversations built around climate action and then during our ‘free time’ those conversations resumed. Here is a taste of what a fly on the wall might have overheard during the retreat.
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“Hey, my community is facing this problem and I’d love to hear your take on it.”
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“We should do this workshop outside!”
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“Do you want me to turn these lights on?”
“I think there is enough light through the windows, I think you can leave them off.”
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“Wow I didn’t realize climate change affected people in your community like that.”
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“Is there compost here?”
“No, I don’t think so, but we can probably just put it in the freezer for now and take it back with us.”
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The entire weekend was filled with thoughtful conversations and mindful interactions like the ones above. We talked not just about the effects of climate change environmentally, but about its effects on people, culture and on well-being. We listened and learned from each other and shared stories and opinions on a range of topics. ‘Climate action’ is a phrase that gets thrown around quite a lot these days. It can be hopeful goal, a rallying cry, or a political talking point. When tackling such a loaded and complex topic it is hard to even know where to start. At this retreat, I learned that climate action starts with being mindful of our impact on the climate, and likewise its impact on people. That’s what this initial spring retreat was perfect for – thoughtful conversations, sharing stories, and being mindful of our impact.
I think I’ve learned that at the end of the day climate change is going to be solved by the same thing that is causing it, the collective actions of billions of people. Even in this beginning stage, through our conversations and passion, the Climate Action Cohort is already a step forward in that collective effort. I’m excited for all that will follow.