There are two topics that seem to me like the modern day, adult taboo-equivalent to giggling kids hearing the word ‘sex’ in 6th grade health class. However the repercussions of not talking about these subjects is much more detrimental. What I’m talking about is:
1. Climate Change, and 2. Personal Finance.
Probably just by reading that you want to stop reading the article. Ugh, some annoying environmentalist who wants to judge me on my poor spending habits.
I get it, they’re sensitive topics. We avoid talking about our salary with our peers, for example. Maybe you make multiples more or less than your friends? Your worry that they might think differently of you, which is totally a reasonable concern.
As for climate change, there’s rarely positive association when talking about it. It’s sort of the conversational equivalent of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh…it can be a real downer. It’s also painfully political: simply mention your acceptance or denial of climate change, and a left or right-wing label is figuratively slapped on your forehead. If your peers don’t share the same beliefs, well it can be awkward.
It’s not easy conversations to have, but if we don’t talk about this stuff we risk missing the huge opportunities to learn and grow from one another, as well as solving planet-sized problems.
Let’s first look at climate change, what I call the ‘elephant in the global room,’ and I’ll get to personal finance in the next post.
I loved a line on the John Oliver show, he said that the scientific consensus is so strong that climate change is happening that it’s the equivalent of debating, ‘do owls exist?’ or, ‘do people wear hats?’ It turns out that it’s actually a giant melting pot of various psychological phenomena that prevent everyday folks from being able to effectively comprehend the vast and complex issues that surround it. And fair enough, it’s a problem so big that it’s literally shared by 7 billion people.
But every year it feels more and more real. It’s affecting not just the token stranded polar bears in climate change articles, but people are losing their homes and their livelihoods. Sea levels have risen. Natural disasters are more frequent. The world is hotter overall. But that’s depressing, right? My city isn’t flooding right now. I mean, it looks pretty normal out there today, it’s not like the forecast for this week is ‘raining hellfire and brimstone.’ So it’s easy to revert to complacency.
But if we (the citizens of Earth) don’t make voluntary changes for the better, mother nature will make that decision for us. It will force us, one way or another, to live simpler and more deliberately and it’ll decelerate our persistent mindless consumption. So why not be proactive? Our energy sources can become drastically cleaner which means healthier air and massive savings in health care costs.
The solutions needed are bigger than simply switching to energy-efficient lights….WAY bigger.
Investing in LED bulbs and a Prius are decent personal steps, but you have something much more powerful to leverage: your voice. The question is, how do we talk about it without feeling in danger of being classified as opinionated by those you’re with? There are two ways I see most effective at expressing your concerns:
1. First, tell your Local Government
I’m still quite new in my position at City Hall, but even in my short time here I’ve learned the power of reaching out to your local representatives. They exist not to maximize profits or grow a business or make faraway shareholders happy; they’re primary goal is to make your life better and address your concerns.
So whether you tell them you want your local government to prioritize bike lanes, protect your nearby park from development or provide energy-saving renovation rebates for your house, please just be vocal. I promise you someone is listening.
And trust me, one person in this respect can make a big difference. All it takes is even just a single letter from a citizen that says ‘I want more support for community gardens,’ to spark an idea. It also allows counsellors, policy-makers and staff to be able to say ‘some citizens have expressed interest in so-and-so’ and they may pursue the issue further to see if more of the public agrees.
2. Talk about stuff that everyone can agree on.
Even if you want to do something about climate change, you never actually have to talk about it directly. Take my blog for example: this is probably first or second post I’ve actually written the phrase ‘climate change,’ but the main motivation behind the site is to inspire people to reduce their environmental impact.
Because even if climate change wasn’t an issue, our high consumption lives causes environmental damage, excessive garbage, high spending and debt for even very wealthy people, and an overall reduction in happiness and health. It just so happens that reducing our footprint preserves our planet and its valuable resources. It’s stuff we should be doing anyway.
Here’s probably my all-time favorite comic on the topic. I’ve shown it in a previous post as well, saying the list of tasks to fight global warming are what we should be doing regardless! We should be reduce how much we pollute for the sake of the air we breathe and the water we drink, we should find alternatives to driving because cars are dangerous and expensive. These are all things that every human can agree on to some level.