Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
The great irony of climate change is that those who will be most affected by it — young people, impoverished and homeless individuals and indigenous populations, to name a few — are often the most powerless to stop it. This can (and does) cause a great deal of anxiety and stress in people who are concerned about the planet. As a result of feeling simultaneously anxious and powerless about global warming, many people lose motivation. They fall into a nihilistic mindset of “nothing that I can do as an individual will make a difference, and I’ll probably be dead before it gets really bad anyway.”
The big picture does tend to come off as bleak: 100 companies produce 71 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions. As independent consumers, our recycling and reusing efforts can feel small and ineffectual in the face of this fact. However, it remains incredibly important for us to continue to try to make lifestyle changes for the benefit of the environment because they will collectively begin to make a difference. In this column, I will touch on a few things that every Trinity student can do to combat global warming.
First and foremost: activism. Get out in the streets and yell at politicians until they begin to support and enact policies that will reduce natural gas emissions and curtail pollution. Vote, even in local elections, for candidates who have strong stances on climate change reform. Climate Action SA makes it easy to find out how you can best contribute, and thanks to their activism in Bexar County, San Antonio has passed a Resolution for the Paris Agreement. It’s not hard to get involved (you can basically just show up!), and you’ll find that a lot of the older members are Trinity alumni!
Secondly, as I’m sure you’ve heard, animal agriculture has a huge impact on the environment. Reducing meat consumption is one of the most concrete ways to positively impact the environment, as it both lessens your carbon footprint and sends a message as a consumer that demand for unsustainable food sources is dwindling. Many people feel as if they can’t go vegan because it seems too difficult, expensive or unhealthy, and limited dining options for college students exacerbate these issues. Nevertheless, making goals like eating vegan for even one day a week can positively impact the environment. Veganism is a huge dietary change, and it is unreasonable to expect to be able to make that change all at once, but one vegan day a week can turn into two days a week, then three and then four. Cut out beef and dairy — oat milk is delicious and has the least impact on the environment of all plant-based milks — to help reduce the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere and cut out fish to help reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans. Peanut butter, cereal, Barilla Protein Plus pasta and veggie stir-fries are quick and simple vegan sources of protein that can be easy to incorporate into a busy schedule.
Limit single-use plastics as much as possible by bringing a reusable fork and water bottle to Coates for lunch, bring reusable bags to the grocery store, use Tupperware containers instead of Ziploc bags and recycle as much as you can. Donate to reputable charities such as Rainforest Foundation US, who helps preserve the Amazon rainforest by securing land rights for indigenous people. Even donating $10 when you’re able to, whether it’s once a month or once a year, makes a difference. It may feel like an insignificant amount, but if every student at Trinity gave $10 right now, $26,400 could be raised to protect the rainforest that absorbs 30 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed or helpless in the face of the climate disaster, but it is crucial to not give up. Do not allow yourself to be a pessimist; instead, channel your stress about the environment into productive action and encourage your friends to do so as well. You are not as powerless as you feel — individual efforts created the problem, and if we come together, individual efforts will solve it.