Don't burn our future

Why you have to join the environmental movement - and why small steps are not enough

Lorina Fedorova
Climate change activist Lorina Fedorova
UNICEF

19 September 2019

About the author:

Lorina Fedorova is a 19-year old environmental activist from Ukraine. 

 

When I found out that we have pretty serious environmental problems, I decided to buy a fabric shopping bag and give up using plastic straws. I thought of myself as a kind of hero who was going to change the world for the best by these simple actions. Now, a year later, I realize that’s really far from enough. But not because I think that I should be a zero waster or vegan. I think it’s because everybody must be a zero waster and vegan.

We are in 2019, and that means we are on the edge of the climate disaster. We have hardly any time left to change the situation. Only (!) 11 years to reduce global man-made emissions, plant a huge number of trees, transition to renewable energy and so on. That’s sounds like a lot of work. Do the governments of all countries want to do all that stuff? It seems like they do not.

So, what should we do?

Arguing with our local shopkeepers to make them refuse plastic packaging or maybe spending half a day searching for a shop, where we can buy eco toothbrushes? That, of course, may be funny, and undoubtedly useful for the planet. But in cases like this, your efforts have no impact on the results. When you finally persuade your trader to reduce plastic, will it be enough for the Earth? Would all the plastic packaging somewhat be re-cycled or whatever due to your effort? Would the climate crisis be solved? It’s a pity, but it probably would not.

Young climate change activists in Kyiv
UNICEF
Climate change activists protesting in Kyiv

There are different ways to fight climate change, but I would like to categorize them by using only two options: changing your personal habits or changing the system.

For some reason many people believe that the first would be enough. That if they are eco-friendly, their example will inspire other people to choose the eco side. Likely, the first converted people will be relatives or close friends. And then, they will convert their relatives and friends and so on and so forth. It’s kind of a good idea, you might think. But there is only one but. How much time does it take to make another person aware of environmental problem? It depends. It may take minutes, but it could also take years. Now that does not seem to be satisfactory. As I’ve already said, we only have 11 years. I think, even the most optimistic person wouldn’t dare to say “we can make it”. So, what now? What should we do? You know, I don’t really want to carry on working out where to find vegan options in supermarkets or how to transport my rubbish to a distant sorting station because I don’t have one near my house. I don’t want others to carry on like this. And we actually should not and should not have to because it’s not our fault. I

I’m not guilty of not sorting trash, the real culprit here is my country that does not give me the opportunity to do it.

Lorina Fedorova

What I do want is to make the government and big corporations care about the crisis they caused and do not wish to solve. By saying everybody should be zero waster or a vegan or carbon-free or whatever I mean that everybody must have the opportunity to do it without wasting their free time and valuable resources. If we want to save the planet, we have to act fast and consolidate. And here’s the thing: only system change can help.

The only way I see to change the system is to show that we do care.

That climate change harms our daily lives today and will damage even harder in the near future. That we are angry at the fact that our happiness is under question. That we are ready to demand, fight, take to the streets, scream and strike. That we are the power and we are unstoppable. Because we’re worth it. You can (but it does not mean you should) be far from eco-friendly, but if you understand why we’re striking, the best you can do is to join. Only showing that we are united will show the government that we can wait no more.

Still, it’s okay changing your personal habits.

Moreover, that’s wonderful and I’m really proud of such people. It’s okay because it’s still important. It’s okay because all the people bear the responsibility of saving the climate, too. After all it’s okay because you have the right to do whatever you want to do. But do remember that there’s also the right to live in a healthy environment. And while we can still use it, we have to stand up for it. Because the rights are not presented, you always should demand and uphold your rights.