The most accessible volunteer opportunity to combat global warming is to change the way you live, and to do it in the most public way possible.
US citizens account for only 5% of the world’s population, but 25% or more of its total resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Our consumer society is a system with great inertia that has already contributed disproportionately to the onset of global warming. The types and scale of changes required to halt global warming will not be accomplished by governments concerned with reelection; if you want to see such change, you must initiate it, and start by altering your own life.
You can be a pioneer in the struggle to stop global warming
It is possible but difficult to do this alone, one volunteer. But the more people see the path you choose and examples you provide of what they can do, the easier it will be for them to join you. The more people work together in these ways, the more viable this alternate path becomes; together, you form a movement. You gain the visibility necessary to influence behaviors and change minds in other places, amplifying your positive impact.
Changing yourself is easy, you may say, but you’re only one person-how can you increase your impact?
There are three major levels at which to work:
* Personal change: This is where you have the most control: you can take many steps, including choosing to sell your car, ride your bike, buy your goods and services from the most local sources available, grow your own food instead of importing it from thousands of miles away, and retrofit your home or build a new one for maximum energy efficiency; you’ll drastically reduce your energy consumption in numerous ways, and be a direct example to others of the best opportunity available to halt global warming.
* Local change: Local and state governments remain relatively accessible to citizen activists, and have increasingly taken the lead on global warming, with more than 225 US cities pledging support for the Kyoto protocol or even more stringent reductions in emissions, despite foot-dragging at the national level. If you can join or start a local global warming/climate change action group, your efforts to influence your local government have a high likelihood of success. State and local politics often turn on anticipated economic impact and voter interest; bring this topic to council meetings, show what changes you are making and how many people are getting involved, and emphasize the power of local and state initiatives to spark innovation and bring economic growth in the growing fields of alternative energy and environmental remediation.
* Macro change: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the highest international scientific body working on this topic, recently released its latest assessment and stated unequivocally that humans are causing global warming, laying out a range of likely global ecological changes over the next century that go from bad to worse, depending on how soon we can halt our greenhouse gas emissions. The reality of global climate change is no longer a matter of debate, and failure to engage in substantial, rapid change starting immediately must not be tolerated. At some level, local change begins to influence national debate. Use the power of your local and state accomplishments to influence your senators and representatives in Congress. Write or call them regularly to make clear that, far from injuring their elective prospects, supporting large-scale, rapid national action on the overwhelming US contribution to global warming is the only way to ensure your support and that of the rapidly growing body of environmentally-motivated voters.
You can volunteer to step off the fast track to global warming and find a more sustainable path
As Margaret Mead put it, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed citizens to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” You have the power to help determine our future. There is no time to waste. Global warming is happening now and the opportunity is ripe. Will you choose your future or wait until dire change is forced upon you?