On January 17, Greta Thunberg – who was just 15 years old when she began her climate activism – was apprehended by German police for protesting the expansion of a coal mine in the region of North Rhine Westphalia. Greta is currently one of the best examples of how social movements can impact our societies and how we the people shape them. We studied the subject of social movements in my 11th grade humanities class, and it got me thinking about how I as a person can create meaningful change within our society.
In order to understand how we can create meaningful change, we must realize the fight against it.
Every year, politicians in Congress accept millions of dollars in legal bribes from corporations to effectively curb any legislation that could slow the effects of climate change. This is achieved by heavy lobbying campaigns and PACs (Political Action Committees). Ultimately, these are legal resources corporations have to ensure that their interests are protected. Members of Congress are also able to trade stocks in companies that are affected by their decisions. This inevitably creates bias based on personal interests.
Notable companies that contribute through PACs are Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, and Chevron, Shell, BP, and API. These companies contribute millions to various politicians every year – primarily Republicans. This is a major issue, because it allows oil companies to control major elements in the federal government – including the dismissal of climate policy that could save the planet.
These large sums of money allow oil corporations to control our politicians with the snap of their fingers. It's a mutually beneficial agreement. Big oil protects their profits, and these Congresspeople – who are not concerned about the planet – fund their campaigns and stay in power. We, the people, need to stop allowing our politicians to get away with this to save our planet; if we do not, we will not have one. As Greta Thunberg likes to remind us, we have reached a point of existential crisis when it comes to climate.
How can we create a social movement to counter these things? It is difficult because there is so much power involved which can make it feel intimidating. The good news is, the blueprint is already there for us to do something about it and some people – such as Greta – already are. Here are some ways you, yes you, can do something about these things.
Civic Engagement: Call your state representative, tell them that you support legislation banning insider trading, and tell them to fight against catastrophic climate change along with their colleagues – and to stop taking bribes from oil corporations. Educate your peers, tell them to do the same. A politician's main goal is reelection. If the people do not elect you, who will?
Build on the Successes of Others: The Sunrise Movement – as one of the bigger names in fighting for climate change legislation – they call themselves the “Climate Revolution”, and they have good reason for it. One of their movements is the “Wide Awake” movement, where associates of the organization will stand outside of a said politician's house at night to keep them awake with large amounts of noise. The politicians kept awake usually denied some form of climate legislation – or didn’t make an effort to create any – even with demand from the people. The Sunrise movement keeps them awake until they make an effort for change. You can do the same.
Organize and Educate: Use social media to spread messages, and to make your voice heard. Get a group together: the more people, the better. Protest in your streets, and demand action. Show your politicians that you aren’t alone in the demand for change, to stop climate change. If that is not your style, go do what the Sunrise people did – violence is not the answer. Knowing what we now know can make oneself feel that change will not be achieved. I am here to tell you that it can, and can be done today. So go out, find a group of like minded people, and go contribute to the climate revolution.
Acts of Civil Disobedience: I am not telling you to break the law here. But remember what Thoreau said: “Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.” Take it for what you will.
And maybe we should all read Greta Thunberg’s new book and get on board with dedicating our activism to ensuring that our planet has a future, whatever it takes.