Most people accept climate change as a reality and one of the biggest collective challenges humanity has yet to overcome. With few exceptions, the general public sees climate change for what it is: a threat.
Though many people understand the danger climate change poses to the planet and both human and non-human lives, the concept can seem abstract at times. Unless you’re a prominent environmentalist or study climate science yourself, you may not be familiar with the world’s climate heroes. These individuals are taking direct action to stop environmental destruction in its tracks.
Who are today’s climate heroes? What role do they play in stopping climate change? And how can the average citizen contribute? Humanity’s ability to create big environmental change relies on the answers to these important but often overlooked questions.
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Climate Heroes Push for Progress
Climate heroes — innovators, activists, scientists and public policy experts — represent a big change in the fight against climate change. These individuals make strides toward progress through their actions, research and guidance.
People typically recognize someone as a “hero” after they accomplish something that captures public attention. If you scan a few reputable environmental blogs, you’re sure to recognize their names or faces, or at least some of their contributions to the environment.
Today’s two most essential types of climate heroes are innovators and activists. Innovators, including inventors and environmental engineers, help develop the technology necessary for humans to transition to zero-carbon energy. Activists, on the other hand, lay the social and political groundwork required to implement such technology.
For an example of climate innovators, consider the citizens of Samsø, Denmark. The residents of this small island collectively transitioned to renewable energy in the form of wind-power. Samsø now runs on 100 percent renewable electricity, cutting their carbon footprint 140 percent since 1997. Such large-scale change makes these Danes, and the three innovators that led them, clear climate heroes.
In the United States, climate activists also make waves. For example, the 21 young plaintiffs suing the U.S. government for inaction on climate change are set to discover whether or not the justice system may be a viable path to appropriate climate action. The kids and their lawyer, Julia Olson, may not have invented new systems of clean energy, but they are spreading awareness about the issue and pushing against the systems stalling progress.
Heroes Are Made
Innovators and activists like the citizens of Samsø and the plaintiffs of Juliana v. the United States show how individuals can make big contributions to the fight against climate change. However, they’re not superheroes. They cannot stop climate change alone.
It’s increasingly clear to scientists and the public that climate change is a serious issue. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that people must reduce carbon pollution by an enormous 45 percent by 2030 to keep warming to a manageable 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s a tall order that can’t be filled by a just handful of remarkable individuals.
Though it’s important to acknowledge the hard work and contributions of climate heroes, overemphasis of these “heroic” contributions may lead to a bystander effect surrounding climate change. If we believe someone else is going to protect the environment, we may not see a need to act. In reality, though, everyone has a part to play in reducing carbon emissions and keeping warming at bay.
Climate heroes weren’t born to fight for the environment. Nothing makes them particularly capable of impacting change. These are simply average citizens who saw a need and rose to the occasion, using whatever skills and resources they may have had at their disposal. They prove that individual actions can have a significant impact when everyone works to meet a common goal.
To preserve the planet for current and future generations, people need to celebrate climate heroes — but even more than that, people need to become them.
Everyone Can Impact Change
Climate change threatens all of humanity, so it’s essential that people work together to find a solution. Climate heroes help make change possible by solving problems and reducing obstacles. Faced with one of the biggest challenges in human history, the planet needs as many heroes as it can get.
If you can, consider what you can do to fight climate change. It could be as simple as reducing your energy consumption or as complex as forming a research collective. Big or small, your contributions can impact revolutionary change.
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