Can individuals have a significant impact on climate change?

Deep ecology is the belief that people must feel like they coexist with and recognize environmental issues as their own issues in order to make any significant, positive change. Deep ecology was initially explored by a Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, who argued that people must recognize their interconnectedness with all living things around us to combat environmental problems. If people are unwilling and unable to see how to rest of the environment fits into their lives, then they will be unable and unwilling to solve these problems. It won’t feel like an important problem for them. Naess focused on the difference between a “shallow” and a “deep” approach to environmental deterioration. Naess’s “deep” approach argues for a high level of personal self-reflection and self-realization. He argues that people must identify with the world beyond our own experiences, to empathize with other living beings and creatures, and take on an ecocentric view of the world as an effective strategy. The video, “What YOU can do about climate change” by Our Changing Climate explores the discussion around what actions can be taken by individuals vs the collective. Our Changing Climate argues that focusing on the question of what individuals can do to resolve the climate crisis is flawed and prevents us from thinking and acting collectively. He argues that focusing on the individual is flawed because it will never be sufficient to fully resolve the problem. Environmental destruction is a global crisis, and therefore needs larger powers such as governments, cooperations and collective groups to take action. Our Changing Climate also points out that the idea that individuals can solve this problem is largely cultural and stems from neoliberal thought. Neoliberalism makes people think of individuals as self-reliant consumers, as opposed to apart of a collective. While individual action is important, it is limited and distracts us from much larger, more effective and long-term solutions. Instead, we should focus on changing government policies and corporations; who cause the vast majority of climate destruction. There needs to be enough public outcry as a collective to cause these changes. Connecting back to deep ecology, public outcry will only come when people recognize the severity, feel connected with the situation, and realize that it is their global problem to solve. People must feel like it is too important to simply shrug off, negate and let others deal with. This needs to become an everyday discussion within our society. There are many similarities between environmental destruction and the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. is a recognizable individual who made a tremendous impact on the civil rights movement through his ideas and individual actions. More importantly, he prompted an even larger discussion within society and prompted the creation of a collective voice. Individual action from people like Martin Luther King Jr. (and Our Changing Climate) is vital for creating dialogue, education, and forming a collective force. It is the collective, however, that sparks changes within the fabric of our society. It is the public outcry, daily dialogue, and inability to ignore our problems that creates a revolution and changes society. We can only start to change once people recognize that they are both part of the problem, solution, as well as a larger voice for social change. Like most things in life, this problem is non-binary. Individuals can create positive results (often by gathering large groups of people and educating for social change), and collective groups make the problems so apparent that they become impossible to ignore. Similar to the civil rights movement, it is not sufficient to “not see color” (or pretend like environmental destruction is not a problem), but rather to recognize that skin color exists, has an effect on people, and take action to solve these problems.