Nowadays, there is no shortage of talks, round tables, conferences, and other virtual events on environmental issues where the most awaited question (and answer) by the public is, “And now, what can I do to solve these problems?” Beyond wanting to hear about what is happening or why, there is a hunger for content that shows us how to get out of this mess called the environmental crisis.
It’s not like we lack proposals for solutions. There is a whole “menu” of actions that tells us that the problem will be solved only if all cars become electric, only if the State strengthens its punitive arm and fines and imprisons those responsible for environmental degradation, and only if we all become vegan, save water and turn off the lights when we don’t use them.
Whose responsibility is it?
However, we are also seeing that the public is increasingly skeptical about this catalog of solutions. Most of these consciously or unconsciously ignore that the environmental crisis is inseparable from the colonial capitalist system responsible for social inequalities, and there is an increasing awareness that they don’t seek to tackle social problems and even end up accentuating them. That is why, by presenting tools that highlight the responsibility of the individual, such as calls to reduce the carbon footprint or plastic recycling campaigns (tools that were created exprofessionally by oil companies), it has become easier to find responses that challenge this logic. We have reached a point where we cannot be asked to save water when government institutions and very recognizable companies continue their extraction and destruction of communities without being required to “save water”.
And now, who will be able to defend us?
This situation has also created a new tipping point in how we decide to act in the face of the crisis. We have those who once again fold their arms and decide that since the problem is systemic and not one of individual change, they have no reason to do anything to change the way things work. On the other hand, there are those who demand THE ONE AND ONLY SOLUTION that, in a totalizing way, will turn the world upside down and lead us to a universal utopia. These new positions bring us back to the same starting point, where apathy and the imposition of a single vision dominate. We are so used to someone else telling us what to do that we are always looking for them to show us the right way out of this crisis. That is also why it is so difficult to answer those “what do I do?” questions that come up at the end of every conversation. Because I can’t say what is the way forward for someone who lives on the other side of the country in a completely different context than mine. The person who knows these problems best and what is needed to solve them is the one who lives them every day in the flesh. And not because I don’t care, but because I believe that a connection should come from solidarity and mutual support, not from what I think it’s best. We are so used to someone else telling us what to do that we are always looking for them to show us the right way out of this crisis. That’s why it is also considered that the environmental crisis is also a crisis of imagination.
Finding our way
In short, solutions to the environmental crisis come in many colors and flavors, and a key step is that they must not replicate the same processes that brought us the problem in the first place. However, not knowing where to start is also disempowering. Some of the first steps we can take are to engage with those who are already doing something in our communities or on issues that affect us. Tools like CartoCritica or the Environmental Justice Atlas are just a few examples of sites that show us who is doing environmental collective action and where. Social networks can also work in our favor to contact people who are already organized in our locality, and new narrative proposals are emerging that defend joy and tenderness, which present us with alternatives to imagine a better future. There is still much work to be done, so yes, you can help in this struggle, but only you can decide how.
Originally published in Spanish on Sopitas.com
Cover photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash