For many around the world, 2022, with its devastating heat waves and floods, was the year climate change became impossible to ignore. But what did people learn from it? And, perhaps more important, what are they going to do about it?
We posed these questions to you, our Climate Forward readers, a few weeks ago, and we got plenty of answers. You learned quite a bit, I’m proud to say, from the articles we at the Times climate team produced.
You said you had learned that developing countries aren’t getting enough funding to cope with climate change, how air pollution is suffocating people in cities, why recycling isn’t as effective as you had hoped and which industries are threatening the animals and plants on our planet.
A lot of you said you wanted to change your behavior to address these issues. You proposed to take fewer flights, eat less meat, buy less stuff and pick up trash at the beach. You are well aware that there are limits to the impact of individual actions, but also that changing the way you live is one thing you can control.
Readers also said they wanted to be part of the big changes that have the power to determine humanity‘s path. So, some of you are contributing to advocacy groups, writing to your local and national representatives, and raising awareness about the issues you care about whenever you have the opportunity.
We read all of your responses, and we learned something from each of them. Thanks to everyone who took the time to send us a note. Here are excerpts from a few of them, lightly edited for length and clarity:
My personal choices — with solar panels, trading my internal combustion engine car for an electric vehicle, cutting out air travel, and eating less meat — weren’t doing enough to alleviate my anxiety.
I focused this year on influencing local policy by chairing a committee to add solar to our city’s public buildings. I met with my state legislators and helped organize two electric vehicle events. While I am still concerned, I no longer have an overwhelming sense of dread for our planet and my children’s future.
I’m going to focus much more on policy in the future.
I’ve decided to go plant-based, and to raise the issue everywhere possible, to promote plant-based diets by raising awareness of the climate and health impacts of eating predominantly meat, and to demand it from the marketplace: shops, supermarkets and restaurants.
We have enough clothing on this planet to last us all the next 20 years, easily. The trick is making it interesting and desirable to someone who loved “luxury” like I did.
In February, it will be a year since I started the No New Clothes challenge. The commitment has radically shifted my relationship to more than just clothing. How do I get more use out of ALL the stuff that passes through my hands? Using “stuff” 30 times or more is way harder than it sounds! But that’s my challenge this year. And being happy doing it!
I plan a no-fly year. Take the bike out, not the car. Eat more vegetables than meat.
I have learned about the importance of invertebrates in the ecosystem. Ninety percent of all flowering plants require a pollinator. Without them, the flow of energy and the ability to store carbon is disrupted.
I will be planting more native plants that sustain the wild bees and other pollinators, and I’ll ensure that there is habitat for them on my property.
The accumulation of scientific data leaves no room for doubt about climate change. The change in weather patterns in Australia reinforces that we have stepped over a line into uncharted territory.
My family relocated from an increasingly drying inland climate zone to a coastal wetter region. Two years ago we struggled through a 10-year drought cycle that ended when an extended La Niña pattern emerged. Now, on the coast, we have La Niña delivering relentless rain-and-flood cycles. We consider ourselves climate refugees in this relocation.
While I know that the emissions of corporations far exceed my own, I feel a moral imperative to make changes. I have already started to be creative with the meals I cook and have gladly sought used furniture when furnishing my first apartment out of college, and I expect to continue to adapt.
The purpose of doing all this stuff for the climate isn’t to halt our progress toward an unlivable planet and hopefully bring us back to a rosy time in our living memory of the last 100 years. The more exciting prospect is the return of our natural systems to a state of true abundance.
It’s what fills my mind when someone asks why I care about the planet and why it is I try and be more environmentally friendly. Our inability to recognize extremely slow environmental deterioration over generations has left us with so much less than we realize, and that the prospect of reversing that trend, and teaching the next generations how to do the same, fills me with joy.
Essential news from The Times
Toxic stew on Cape Cod: Higher temperatures, combined with rising levels of nitrogen that come from antiquated septic systems, are causing an explosion of algae blooms.
Clean power on demand: Engineers say a self-recharging hydroelectric project in Portugal could fill in the gaps when wind and solar farms are not producing energy.
Getting noticed: Activists in Germany have found a protest action that gets attention: blocking traffic.
That’s facts: Test your New York knowledge.
Take our quiz to see how much you know about the New York region’s climate footprint and its environmental challenges.
From outside The Times
The number of children suffering dire drought conditions in the Horn of Africa has more than doubled to 20 million in the past five months, according to UNICEF.
Yale Climate Connections profiled eight artists — including sculptors, painters and photographers — who are grappling with climate change and imagining a better world.
From NPR: A third atmospheric river storm is set to add to misery in California’s flooded areas.
New York has become the latest U.S. state to allow human composting, the BBC reported.
Before you go: How to make Americans cut food waste
By some estimates, food waste in the United States is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as commercial aviation. With that in mind, a small but growing number of states and cities are starting programs aimed at keeping food out of landfills. Here’s how communities in Ohio are getting residents to change their habits.
Happy New Year, and thanks for being a subscriber! We’ll be back on Friday.
Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward. Read past editions of the newsletter here.
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