I was recently given the opportunity to speak on the LCA Spark Talks stage to share my journey from sustainability advocate to climate justice activist. I tried my best to distill this journey into seven minutes and six lessons so people could take inspiration to become more sustainable and confront the climate crisis. This was the advice that I gave. Scroll to the end to watch the full video.

Get up, Stand up!

I used to think we were each equally accountable for the damage that has been done to the planet. I realise now that is not quite the case. Large corporations are profiting off of the destruction of our home and governments are enabling it. Large fossil fuel corporations like Exxon Mobil have known for decades that their practices were destructive and causing the world to heat up, yet spent trillions of dollars to create confusion and doubt around the cause of climate change. People in positions of power are not moving fast enough to change or to regulate corporations from doing further damage. We have the collective power to hold corporations and governments accountable. Join a protest, take part in non-violent direct action, sign petitions, write to the president, support organisations committed to climate justice…but just do something!

people protesting against coal

Me amongst other environmental activists protesting the funding of new coal powered power plants in South Africa

Consume Less

In a capitalist world, it is very easy to get caught up in the flurry of believing that we need to buy more than we need. Whether that is clothes, technology or even exotic experiences. Advertising and social media place value on material possessions and carbon-intensive experiences, often convincing us that we are not good enough and will feel better if we purchase something. This is of course a lie and a trick to get us to spend money (sometimes which we don’t really have to spend in the first place). Privileged people in the world are making up the majority of the world’s lifestyle emissions and need to look at living simpler lives. We also must not get caught up in green consumerism, which tries to get us to buy lots of “eco products” to make ourselves feel more sustainable and better about ourselves. For many of us, all we need is less!

A meme I found online that is too true. Buy less and use what you have.

 

Regenerate

The world’s natural systems, on which our lives depend, are degraded and suffering. We need to take time to (re)connect with nature and get our hands and feet dirty in the soil. Whether you take time to cultivate your own vegetable and herb garden or take part in tree planting or eco restoration initiatives, it is important to play a part in healing our home. The Earth is just as alive as we are and she needs us to take care of every part of her.

Me taking part in a Greenpop tree-planting at a Western Cape school a few years back

Listen, talk, understand (everything is connected)

One of the most important things we can do about the social, environmental and climate crises that we face is to talk about it. We need to be more open about the realities of what is happening to our world and not be afraid to talk about it. It is incredibly important to also listen and try to understand those who are at the forefront of climate and social injustice. The climate crisis is already and will continue to effect people of colour, indigenous people and people in poverty more. Many of these people also already have the wisdom and answers to the problems that current systems cannot provide. Everything is connected. Us to the Earth and social injustices to environmental ones.

Make sustainable living choices where you can

Scientists have made it clear that we are going to need to change industries and lifestyles on a massive and unprecedented scale. Making sustainable living choices as a collective do make a difference and those who have the privilege to address our lifestyles definitely should. Some sustainable living choices include (but are not limited to):

  • Eating food that comes from farms which practice regenerative agriculture. Reducing meat, dairy and seafood intake is necessary but industrial vegan agriculture is also damaging to the planet. We should be focusing on eating locally and regeneratively (if we can) when it comes to anything we eat.
  • Going flight-free / reducing the amount of flights we take and offsetting the carbon of any flights we cannot avoid
  • Using public transport, cycling or walking instead of driving. This is not always easy, especially in a place like South Africa which does not offer many safe and affordable public transport in all areas. In this case carpooling or simply looking to reduce the amount of travelling we do can also make a difference.
  • Saving water by giving up the bath (or bathing far less), taking shorter showers, letting it mellow if it’s yellow and collecting grey water and rainwater for reuse.
  • Conserving energy by using LEDs, turning lights off, avoiding heating and cooling (by embracing shorts or a blanket depending on the weather), only boiling as much water in the kettle as you need etc.
  • Refusing plastic wherever possible
  • Recycling and ecobricking
  • Composting

Take courage & believe in your power

We see bad news headline after bad news headline. It can be overwhelming and cause as to give up hope. But our individual power translates into collective power which is immensely powerful and can shift the world into a far more positive and safe place for all people. Take courage that no matter what the outcome is and no matter what the future holds, today you have the power to take action.