Climate Despair: What Is It and How Can We Inspire Collective Action Instead?

I won’t go back and forth with individuals or trolls on the internet, but I will share and uplift the research that’s been done for decades to show the correlations and gaps between race, identity and environmental outcomes.

Nexus Media News: Which of your posts or publications have had the biggest impact?

Kristy Drutman:  The pieces that have had the biggest impact were those amplifying the voices and perspectives of people outside my background or my community. My theory going into Brown Girl Green was that that was going to be the most compelling content—people who, even in the face of hopelessness, are able to find hope and resilience and innovation. 

Sophia Li: The first episode of [the climate TV show] “All of the Above” was all about this notion of if I’m just one person, what difference can I make? We asked [questions like] “Am I a bad person if I eat meat? Am I a bad person if I use plastic?” That was very controversial because sustainability has always been shown as this binary before. But sustainability is not binary, it’s a spectrum, and I think it actually hinders people [from] joining the sustainable movement when they think they have to be completely perfect. 

Nexus Media News: How do you make your work accessible to wider audiences?

Alaina Wood: When I first started, I felt like I had to be in a white lab coat—very stern, serious, using a lot of scientific language. But then I realized, what do I personally want to see? Not somebody in a lab coat. I want to have a conversation—very personal and genuine conversations—with people. I’ve noticed that, at least for me, adding some sassiness into my videos goes over really well.

Sophia Li: I’m always trying to get people who are maybe not proactively seeking out climate coverage and helping them connect it to something that they already love, or are passionate about, or understand. If you love fashion, if you love food—all of these industries are going to be impacted by climate. You have to proactively meet people where they’re at.

Nexus Media News: How do you talk to climate skeptics?

Leah Thomas: Don’t, if you don’t want to. If someone is a climate skeptic, and they make you feel uncomfortable and want to fight you—you can pick your battles. 

Instead, you can just show the way that you’re living. Like bringing reusable containers with you, talking about your electric car—just genuinely talking about something that you care about. They might be interested, and you’re not going into it like, Let me educate you on this topic. 

Nexus Media News: But what about those who say individual actions aren’t enough?

Alaina Wood: I talk about individual collective action. It’s not, if you or everybody uses a metal straw, we’re going to save the climate, because that’s not true. It’s more that if individuals work together to hold governments, corporations and militaries accountable for their emissions and for their horrific environmental crimes, that’s how we’re going to get true collective action. 

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