Collective Action

Much of our other discussion of what you as an individual can do to reduce your impact has been to look at your own personal life, to improve how ‘green’ your lifestyle is. While this is critically important, it isn’t enough. The problems that we are facing are just too large for lone individuals to turn the tide, and we also need the actions of our governments, corporations, and other organizations. We need to demand that our society makes sure that there will be a healthy world to pass on to our descendants.

Governments are the holders of many of the keys to successful policy, they set the ‘rules of the game’ that shape the actions of all the individuals and businesses. They subsidize some types of actions, forbid others, regulate everything. All of these policies shape the decision making processes of others. For example, building codes set minimum requirements for how well buildings are built and insulated, and this in turn shapes how the building trades and consumers respond. In 2018, fossil fuels receive massive amounts of direct and indirect subsidies and currently no one (and therefore everyone) has to pay for the costs of the pollution that comes from burning them. This makes fossil fuels artificially cheap, and therefore people use much more of them than they should.

Businesses and corporations have direct control over enormous amounts of resource use, of commercial buildings, mines, factories, transportation, and more. Just like you as an individual can make changes that impact your own family’s sustainability, so too can larger organizations, and the effects that they can have are huge. At Sunshine Saved, we have a 5 year plan to cut our emissions in half, and every organization could take their own steps to minimize their impacts. Businesses also produce the goods and services that we all use as consumers, and if they don’t provide these in a sustainable fashion it makes it much more difficult for each of us to lower our impacts as individuals.

What you can do

As both citizens and consumers, each of us can lend our time, energy, money and talents to influence government and industry. It can seem daunting, because we are each so small and the things that we are trying to influence are so big. And it isn’t easy, many of the campaigns that attempt to influence big organizations fail. However, for those that do, the payoffs are enormous. For instance, if you were to be a part a group that convinced the United States to put in place a comprehensive tax on carbon pollution, this would have positive impacts that would absolutely dwarf what those same people could do by changing their own personal behavior on housing, food, or transportation.

The easiest way to get involved is to find like-minded groups and to join them. You can volunteer your voice, funding or expertise to helping these groups with their missions. Some groups do political activism, some work with industry, some are large organizations in their own right and take direct action towards sustainability goals. There is strength in numbers, and it is through having your voice heard that you can help to change the trajectory of these large organizations.

There is of course no limit to what one could try. If it suits you, you could run for public office, work to change to behavior of the company that you work for, contact your public representatives directly, start your own organization, or anything else that you can think of.

We at Sunshine Saved will provide additional information on organizations that we think do particularly good work, but for now will just pass along a link to a large listing of existing environmentally minded organizations. As to which policies we ought to enact, there are many opinions on the matter, but as a start we shall mention Project Drawdown, who put numbers to how much different actions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.