How Inaction on Climate Change Can Reflect Our Own Daily Habits

Photo by Patrick Hendry of Unsplash

A few years ago, I became a certified health coach. I made a go of it as a business for about a year, but then my ambition petered out. Even though the program actually helped me on my own health journey, I did not have the passion to continue pushing it. People’s resistance to paying for something that would help them in every aspect of their lives — and extend their lives — was just too great. I’d have had an easier time opening a candy store.

See, most people want to continue on the same comfortable path they are walking on. That may be sitting most of the day, drinking on the weekend, having dessert every night, snacking at all hours. That’s fine when you’re in your twenties or even thirties, but eventually you’ll have to change your ways. Still, most people need a crisis before they make that change. Maybe it’s a doctor’s stern warning or even a stroke or heart attack. Then we act.

Similarly, in the last year and a half, the pandemic forced us to do something we didn’t want to do: maintain social distance and mask up. While many could not comply with that much, the fact that probably three-quarters of us did probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

I started thinking about how our daily habits reflect out into the world, specifically on climate change.

To anyone with open eyes, 2021 may be that make-or-break tipping point year when we either save ourselves or we don’t. We have seen unheard-of temperatures in the northwest, followed by wildfires; catastrophic flooding in Europe; Salt Lake and Lake Mead at all-time low water levels; people in flood-prone areas around the world becoming refugees in search of better land; continued big storms in both summer and winter; and the dying of animal species (on land and in water) at a rate that is unprecedented.

And yet, most of us watch the news and say, “Wow, isn’t that terrible?” And then we get on with our day.

When something is put into law, we might change. Most of us recycle now (although, thinking about a party I recently threw, we are still fairly uneducated about what materials should and should not be recycled!). A few have moved to non-fossil-fueled heating systems and cars.

Even so, demand for coal and oil is up to pre-pandemic levels. This, even though we saw with our own eyes how smog-free Los Angeles and other cities became when nearly everyone stopped driving for a couple of months. We saw clean water in the Venice canals for the first time in decades, because big cruise ships weren’t coming in for a landing.

In the meantime, how many of us are turning down the thermostat in winter or turning off the AC if it’s not really needed? How many of us have curtailed our driving (I mean, for environmental reasons, not because of the price of gas)? Remember carpooling? We don’t even talk about it anymore. Are we willing to give up beef, which takes up so much energy to produce and transport?

How many of us are writing to our Congressional representatives to make sure they know this is priority #1? How many of us are demanding more trains and buses in our areas? How many of us are marching for climate change?

I am not here to judge. I vote on the issue and try to remain vigilant in my own energy-use habits, but I could be doing much more. If our child ran out into the street, wouldn’t we risk our own lives to bring them back to safety?

We are at the crisis point. We can’t make mild and passive changes and get out of this. Just as, at a certain point in our lives, we can’t undo damage to our bodies due to years-long bad habits by halving our cigarette and alcohol consumption, or going from fourteen desserts and snacks a week to seven. It’s a start, but at some point, a revolution is called for.

Do we have what it takes for a healthy Earth revolution?

I am an author, freelance writer, and singer/songwriter. I split my time between Brooklyn, NY and my native Massachusetts. I teach at City College of New York.