Citizens’ opportunities for impact alone are quite limited concerning climate change. However, it is essential to remember that individuals are part of various groups, such as cities, businesses, civic communities, the state, and ultimately the global population. Every individual can participate in combating climate change, and everyone should do so.
On an individual level, there is always an opportunity to initiate change from grassroots. Performing daily actions and making more climate-friendly choices are small steps. For instance, at the workplace, advocating for green values and striving to incorporate them into the daily operations of one’s company, whether an individual employee in a large or small business or a member of the company’s board. If such citizens exist in hundreds of different companies, and mindsets gradually shift, the impact of an individual in combating climate change significantly increases.
Climate Strikes and Organized Activities
The same individual citizens can also influence, for example, through the Green Party or by joining various civic organizations working for the benefit of the climate. They can engage in activities such as distributing leaflets on the street, writing on different blog platforms, or contributing to opinion columns in newspapers. Citizens’ influence can also extend to voting in elections, as voting for a more environmentally friendly party could prompt other parties to make their election programs more environmentally conscious. In today’s globalized social media culture, it is possible to create a kind of trend against climate change, exemplified by the recent climate strikes initiated by the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. An individual actor can garner widespread support for their ideology through the internet, and movements opposing climate change can spread rapidly, attracting new citizens who want to contribute to combating climate change through their actions.
Suddenly, the individual becomes a collective
In addition to the mentioned methods, citizens may have other opportunities to impact climate change. One way could be to question the prevailing legal system at both local and global levels. In many states, citizens are guaranteed rights such as the right to life, a healthy environment, and personal freedom. Additionally, the rights of children should be protected, and the current climate policies jeopardize the rights of future generations. In theory, an individual citizen could challenge their own state in court, and there are already precedents worldwide where states have been found to violate an individual’s freedoms in combating climate change. By challenging the prevailing legal system, the court could theoretically compel political decision-makers to act in a certain way to ensure a safe and viable environment for everyone even beyond the late 21st century.
Citizens also have the opportunity to initiate citizens’ initiatives, both at the national and European Union levels, which could steer decision-making towards stronger investments in combating climate change. On the other hand, the feasibility of these initiatives may be challenging, as the resources of an individual to gather massive support for initiatives or challenge the state may be insufficient. However, the aforementioned principles also apply to these initiatives – a movement initiated by one individual can evolve into a mass movement, and more people may want to contribute to initiatives.
Every action matters, whether it’s the size of Finland or China. That’s why we all can and have to contribute to combating climate change. Before it is too late.