I can’t change anything! I’m just a single person

One of the objections you’ll often hear about climate change is “But I’m just one person – nothing I do will make any difference”. You may even have used that excuse yourself, and if you did, you probably believed it, too.

Let’s fix that, right here, right now, shall we? You are not just a leaf blown by the wind. You’re a conscious human being, intelligent – why else would you be reading my blog ? – and you remain perfectly capable of making your own decisions. Or, as it turns out, your own excuses. Just don’t expect those excuses to have any value.

You may think it’s reasonable to make some small changes, and expect everything to work out. That it’s reasonable to continue driving, to continue eating red meat, and consuming dairy products. You probably think you’re being reasonable by doing recycling, and even not using plastic straws.

I’m here to tell you that the time for being reasonable is over. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Ignoring the blatant sexism in that quote, now is the time to be unreasonable, but not in the way you may be thinking. We need to unreasonably demand that everyone changes how they live – yes, that includes you, too. We need to unreasonably close roads to motorised traffic, implement roads pricing that rapidly increases, based on miles travelled, we need to implement mileage quotas, and we all need to drive less.

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At this point, the “Oh, what about the disabled people? What about the old and infirm people?” pearl clutchers always start up.

I recently read a tweet which summed things up perfectly:

 

The tweet, by @liz545, can be found here.

Think about that for a moment, and honestly ask yourself why you’re so strongly negative towards any attempt to curb car dominance. Ask yourself why you are so quick to make excuses for a mode of transport that directly kills five people per day in the UK, maims and injures tens of thousands per year, and causes at least 9 000 early deaths per year from transport-related pollution, in Greater London alone.

And if you are still making excuses for maintaining the status quo, let me ask you this: which 5 people that you personally know would you be happy to die in a car crash this year? Name them, then explain to yourself, and to them, why you’d be happy for those people to die, just so you can continue to drive. Just remember, that also means someone else might nominate you – how does that make you feel?

Once you realise the enormous harm driving does, just through immediate factors, such as crashes and pollution, you need to start looking at the big picture: climate change.

Now is the time to remove any tinfoil hats, and ditch all conspiracy theories. Only an complete idiot would deny that climate change is real, man-made, and unless stopped, will be utterly devastating. We’re well beyond just trying to save the lives of  the 5 people who will die in car crashes today, and every other day, and we’re deep into the territory of trying to save our home.

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You may not realise how climate change works – it isn’t a linear change. Well, it is, but only up to a point. One we reach that tipping point,  everything changes, and changes fast. The only uncertainty is exactly when we’ll reach the tipping point, but unless you, me, and everyone else rapidly change the very way in which we live and travel, we are guaranteed to hit that tipping point.

What will you say to your grandchildren, as they’re trying to survive on a planet rapidly becoming hostile to human life, when they ask why you didn’t stop it from happening? Will you tell them about how badly you needed that SUV, and how walking the half a mile to the shops was simply too much sacrifice to make?

The ocean is made up of countless drops of water, and while you won’t notice an individual drop being removed, but if half of all those drops were somehow removed, it would make an enormous difference. We are all drops in the ocean of action that’s needed, and while it may feel like your actions overall are insignificant, together with those of most other people, we can make a difference.

But it begins with you. You need to change your life, then try to convince just two other people to also change theirs. It must be real changes, though, not mostly meaningless gestures like carrying around your own, personal stainless steel straw.

Or you can make excuses. Who knows, you may even succeed in lying to yourself. Just don’t expect others to fall for your excuses.

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Ghandi said it best: Be the change you want to see in the world. That absolutely means you need to change how you live. Once you’ve achieved that, try to get just two other people to change the way they live, and of course, try to get them to each do the same to two other people.

Suddenly, despite each of us being just a single drop, we flow together to form a mighty ocean.

 

1 thought on “I can’t change anything! I’m just a single person”

  1. Well written. The media need to promote how people can bring about change, and not continue the narrative that only government can resolve these issues. They have their part to play, but individuals can't use that as an reason not to make their own changes.

    Reply

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