Jenna Menapace, firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate Change is real, it is happening fast, and we need to do something about it. We all know these facts, and have known for decades, so what is holding back the change we need? A recent academic article, titled “’Don’t Tell Me What to Do,’” was published in a weather and climate research journal highlighting the effects of different positive environmental messages on individual’s perceptions and likelihood to take action. The study’s authors, Risa Palm, Toby Bolsen, and Justin T. Kingsland, found that when messages were targeted at individuals and showcased changes each person can and should make to reduce their impact on the environment, the message receivers became less likely to act. However, when the message focused on collective action, the receivers’ likelihood to act saw no change. Neither message, individual nor collective, increased viewers’ incentive to take action.
These findings were attributed to four varying mind sets: 1) people do not like to be told what to do or feel their freedom of choice is being jeopardized; 2) many do not want the responsibility of climate change on their shoulders, and would prefer big producers and businesses make the changes instead of citizens; 3) political party affiliation influences beliefs about climate change and the severity of its impacts, with one side downplaying it immensely; 4) and, finally, some individuals are skeptical one small change will actually make a difference and, therefore, make no changes at all. Needless to say, these perspectives are harmful and cannot continue, and we, the youth of the world and soon to be leaders, need to be at the forefront of shifting these ideologies.
We are a generation of change. We have proven time and again that we will question tradition and design our own set of rules and norms to follow. We have done this with gender: gender roles are falling by the wayside and we recognize more than just male and female to be inclusive and understanding. We have done this with sexuality: everyone can have a label if they desire, and can find a community to fit in no matter their sexual orientation. We have done this with mental health: we are more comfortable and more willing to talk about our mental health problems than any generation before, and we seek conversation to improve not only ourselves,
but each other. We have done this with racial equality: we have taken to the streets and challenged previous thinking with the hope of a better future. Our determination to create a more knowledgeable, compassionate, and responsible society cannot stop at Climate Change.
We cannot fall victim to the ideologies these researchers have identified in our culture. We should view individual changes as challenges, not an attack on freewill or fruitless endeavors. We are on a roll and have changed so much already — let’s take our motivation and go further. Small changes make a huge difference: Meatless Mondays, buying reusable products, using public transportation, planting native plant-life, utilizing less water, protecting our natural wild-life, and so much more. Get educated, share your ideas, and make changes. We have the resources and drive to be the spearhead of climate positive action, so let’s start now.