Q: “How do you answer the doomers when it comes to the pace, intensity, and quality of climate change? It’s hard to work on change if people think, ‘What’s the point? It won’t make a difference anyway.’”
A: Some of the loudest voices on the climate crisis exist at the fringes—the deniers on one side, the doomers on the other. Convincing either to take action can feel like a losing battle, but remember that you, fellow climate change warrior, are not alone. There is tremendous progress happening in the middle, where all of us hoping to reduce the worst effects of climate change exist.
In case you could use a reminder of what we can achieve when we work together, remember these recent victories: the takedown of Keystone XL, which would have sent more than 800,000 barrels of tar sands crude each day from Canada to Nebraska; the fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin; the abandonment of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by its developers; the closure of Limetree Bay Refinery in St. Croix, one of the world’s largest, and dirtiest oil refineries, to name just a few.
Engaging with someone who’s convinced there’s nothing to be done is a laudable goal. Show them past successes that have been meaningful to you and describe the role that each of us can play. NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton reminds us, “There is a great deal each of us can do, and little things add up to big things.” Billions of individual decisions are shaping our planet’s future every day.
Some of the most important actions we can take are on behalf of the collective good—such as by lobbying our legislators (in person or remotely), taking a stand at town halls and public hearings, or writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Right now we have a historic opportunity in front of us to put the United States on a path to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 through Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which would provide both immediate relief to people suffering from climate change now and prepare communities for what’s to come. As the world's largest historical emitter of heat-trapping pollution, not only is this our duty—an imperative made even more clear by the dire warning issued through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report—but it would also set an example for other major emitters to follow.
Remind the pessimist that we can collectively make a dent by going car-free, giving our homes an energy-efficient makeover (a heat pump water heater is a particularly great investment), eating less meat, and composting our food. We can channel our outrage over the fossil fuel industry’s destructive actions by keeping tabs on any potential polluting projects in our own communities—and by attending local meetings where they’re up for discussion—as well as organizing like-minded neighbors to stand up against them.
If we’re parents, we can pass on these values to the next generation, who will inherit the world we leave them and will be the future stewards of the planet. There are many inspiring examples you can point to spotlighting young people standing up for their generation, whether that’s the Standing Rock Youth Council or the Appalachian Youth Climate Coalition. Getting to know their work—and supporting their causes—will help encourage children and teens to channel worry into action.
Knowlton cautions that we shouldn’t turn our back on the hopeless. “Everyone wants to have a sense of belonging to a community who cares about them,” she says. “Let people know that you appreciate their concerns but that there’s a growing army of individuals worldwide who truly want to protect public health from climate change’s effect. They’re dedicated and they’ve got heart, and they’re continuing to demand that our elected leaders bring us positive changes.”
Finally, remind your doomer that the world’s most powerful movements, like the fights for civil rights or women’s suffrage, achieved lofty goals because groups of determined individuals were willing to climb a nearly insurmountable hill.
That’s the key word, isn’t it? Nearly.
We’ve got this, Christopher. And with your help, we hope the doomers begin to believe that too.
NRDC.org stories are available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as time and place elements, style, and grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can't republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.
At their worst, social platforms are ideological echo chambers where falsehoods can’t be set straight. To fossil fuel interests, that sounds perfect.
We’re keeping track of the latest news from Glasgow as government and climate leaders hash out how to rein in runaway warming.
As the wealthy flee Earth, a young woman must decide whether to follow her partner to a new world or stay behind to save a dying planet. A queer cli-fi story with cyberpunk vibes, published by Fix, Grist’s solutions lab, with support from NRDC.
Disagreements these days can escalate quickly, but with the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it—and the courage to nurture meaningful dialogue—your efforts will be worthwhile. Here are a few tips.
NRDC president and CEO Manish Bapna, an economist by training, knows that solving the climate emergency will require the global transformation of key economic systems—and that the transformation cannot wait a day longer.
Writer, editor, teacher, and podcast host Mary Annaïse Heglar uses the art of storytelling to help people feel less alone in facing the climate crisis—and to build the movement for climate justice.
In the latest issue of the literary quarterly McSweeney’s, 10 short-story writers imagine what the world might look like in 20 years without effective climate action.
The stories that really reach people are the ones with stirring scenes, suspense, and relatable characters.
As far as future-building strategies go, Greta Thunberg’s passionate optimism beats Jonathan Franzen’s placid pessimism any day.
A new novel imagines what life in Bangkok would be like if nearly half the city were underwater—which some experts say is a real possibility.
A recent climate assessment raised red flags about a shrinking economy. But maybe it doesn’t have to play out that way for millennials—we can start demanding with our dollars for a green, just economy.
The administration cites the likelihood of catastrophic global temperature rise to justify gutting fuel-efficiency standards. Yes, you read that correctly.
Anxious about where our planet is headed? Tip one: You’re not alone—and that means a lot.
It’s true that aggressive policies and laws are crucial to save the planet. But carbon-cutting actions by individuals can also make a dent (especially when corporations and elected officials take note!). Here are some easy, concrete ways you can make a difference.
We know that you know that Trump’s assessment of the Paris Agreement is way off base. Here’s how to convince those who don’t.
No demolition required. A few small tweaks to each room could dramatically shrink your carbon footprint.
Sometimes the best way to turn your anger into action is to pick up the phone. Follow these tips to minimize your anxiety and maximize your impact.
Healing the planet starts at home—in your garage, in your kitchen, and at your dining-room table.
Kids have a natural connection to the earth, as well as a drive to heal it. And that may be our saving grace.
Considering making the switch? Here's everything you need to know about driving electric cars and hybrids.
Turn your city into a climate sanctuary, rally on Main Street, and other ways to make change globally by acting locally.
NRDC senior attorney Ben Longstreth explains how plaintiffs for these cases get chosen—and how you can help advance the cause in or out of the courtroom.
With minimal effort, you can turn those banana peels and apple cores into gold. Let us break it down.
Darby Hoover, NRDC’s waste expert, says this “single stream” type of recycling is mostly about customer convenience, but the costs may outweigh the benefits.
We've made huge strides in keeping the things we throw away out of landfills. Here's how you can take recycling to the next level—at home, at work, and in your community.
The prospect of geoengineering freaks us out. And it should—it signifies the lateness of our climate hour.
Our guide to buying greener beans, brewing with less waste, and avoiding all that packaging.