Evan Saugstad: Young climate activists can make a difference, one carbon molecule at a time


Greta Thunberg, although only 16, is already a household name. That's a pretty good accomplishment for someone that age.

Her impassioned speech to the United Nations has been viewed by millions and discussed by virtually every media outlet in the world. It's fair to say she has become another media darling, with journalists and politicians lining up to cover her story, or just to be seen with her.

Personally, I must congratulate Greta. She has devoted a lot of time and effort in becoming who she is, and she should be commended.

Sure, she has help; she has a support team, she has financing, and all the other things that others wish to point out as wrong. But that isn’t necessarily wrong — that's how one gets their message out in this day and age of sensationalist social media activism and propel themselves and their message to the top of the front page.

But, now that Greta is there, what is left to do?

Does she take a page from David Suzuki or Tzeporah Berman’s playbook, and just keep telling me that others are the problem, and that I should take action to stop them?

Or, does she take the next step and tell each one of her millions of followers that they are the problem, and that they must commit to changing their lives to make a difference?

This is where it gets tricky.

How does one tell others that they are the problem, that they are responsible for climate change, that they have to change their lives to make sure their world is a better place to live in? Who wants to hear a message that says they are the problem?

After all, it's easier to focus on Fort Mac and the oilsands and pipelines as being Public Enemy No. 1 in Canada. 

To Greta and the followers of her message: Each and everyone of you can make a difference, and it starts within your own homes.

It starts with you, not by telling your parents what they must do, but what you must do. It starts with you, by telling your parents that you are making changes in your life, and that you will live your life differently than them.

A couple things to start will result in big changes to our world by the time your generation takes over the responsibility of running this crazy planet called Earth — end consumerism, stop buying stuff, stop travelling away from your communities, and start leading by example. 

Make a few commitments: “I am not going to go on any more holidays with my family”; or,  “I am not going on any more out of town field trips with my school”; or, “I am going to help others live with less energy”; or, “I will not buy any new clothes until my old ones are worn out.”

Or any other commitment that involves you.

Take a walk around the block and offer to help your neighbours by shovelling their driveway instead of letting them use their snowblower, or offer to turn their garden over with a shovel instead of a rototiller, or push an old fashioned lawnmower with no engine and mow the lawn.

The options are endless if you wish to use your energy to replace someone else’s use of fossil fuels.

These things will make a difference, one carbon molecule at a time. Can you imagine if millions got up off the couch and did such things? 

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and lives in Fort St. John.

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