Level 1 : Start the Conversation

We are facing a climate crisis of epic proportion—one that threatens life on Earth as we know it. For people and birds to have any chance of adapting, the response needs to be no less massive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start at home. Personal actions reduce our own contributions to climate change, sometimes significantly. Just as important, they have a ripple effect: When people see others in their community taking action, they are much more likely to do so themselves. The technical term for this is “social norm,” but let’s just call it doing your part to help save the world. 

 

Take It From Me:
Inspiration from an electric vehicle owner

"Last year, my husband and I bought our first car since 2004. We wanted something that used as little fossil fuel as possible, but we were hesitant to get an all-electric vehicle that would require regular charging on our annual trip from New York City to the Midwest for the holidays. We ended up with a plug-in hybrid—the perfect compromise. The battery provides a 60-mile range per full charge for local travel, and the gas engine kicks in when we’re out of juice on longer drives. Now our biggest challenge is ensuring that the electricity for each charge is green, so we opt into our utility’s wind-energy plan at home." 

—Elizabeth Sorrell, Audubon's vice president of engagement, and a 2018 Chevy Volt owner

36

Number of gallons of gas each person would save by swapping beans for a five-ounce steak one day a week for a year. Or, to put another way, that's a five percent decrease in a typical home’s annual electricity use.

Climate Coping Skill

BE REALISTIC Once you grasp the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s easy to feel bad about not doing more. "Coming from that mindset is natural and understandable, but it's counterproductive," says climate psychologist Renee Lertzman. We get the most done when we have compassion for ourselves, accept our shortcomings, and view each day as a chance to live closer to our values.

Level 2: Lead Your Community

With your own carbon footprint under control, it’s time to level up your impact by encouraging those around you to take climate actions. But where to start? Consider the local communities and spaces where you already have connections and influence—your child’s school, say, or a social hub like a coffee shop. By merely showing up and making your case, you can lead others toward climate-friendly policies and practices. It’s not always easy, but it’s often productive—and rewarding. Along the way, you’ll develop new relationships and skills that will help you become an ace climate advocate. 

 

Take It From Me:
Inspiration from a first-time city councilmember

"I unexpectedly had the opportunity to run in a special election. I was a newcomer to St. Paul, though a lifelong Minnesotan. I had about 10 days to actually make a campaign. What should people considering this think about? Local politics can feel entrenched—like, oh, I have to have been a homeowner for 25 years in this community and have super-deep networks to jump in and try to lead. I didn't have any of that. I struck out on my own to say: I believe what our community really needs right now is a new perspective for the future."  

—Mitra Jalali Nelson, Ward 4 council member in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of 25 cities selected so far for the National League of Cities' Leadership in Community Resilience Program. 

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

It's more productive than a Facebook rant.

Pick Your Newspaper if you want to influence a specific decision maker, choose a paper they read. A local or regional print publication is a good bet.

Get to the Point Make one point in your letter, and make it well. Keep it between 150 and 200 words. 

Make It Personal Tell your climate story to emphasize why you care. Include no more than the one fact needed to support your main point. 

Don't Hold Back Tell readers what you want to get done or them to do. Be precise and aggressive. 

But Don't Be Too Aggressive Do not attack individuals or groups of people. Stick to your point. 

Find a Proofreader Before submitting your letter, have a friend or trusted colleague read it for clarity and errors. 

80

Number of years it can take a new build­ing to overcome the climate impacts of its construction. When possible, retrofitting existing buildings—for example, by upgrading HVAC or electrical systems—should be the priority for cities and towns.

Climate Coping Skill

STAY FOCUSED People confuse worrying about climate change with taking action, says psychotherapist Rosemary Randall. Getting involved with an organization, like Audubon, can help—it’s easier to make a tangible impact with a group, and that reaffirms your sense of agency. Terror is not a durable motivation. Much healthier: social justice and preservation of the natural world.

Level 3: Rebuild the Machinery

Ready to really start making an impact? Good, because now it’s time to tackle the entrenched systems and political stagnation that can greatly contribute to climate change at the state and regional levels. It’s here that we need to advocate for things like fast and innovative grid transformation, ­forward-thinking climate policies, and institutional reform. There’s no question that driving change is challenging work. The key is recruiting allies and being thoughtful about your strategies and goals. With the right partnerships and planning, you can wield influence that once might have seemed unimaginable.