Putting yourself out there and standing up for something you believe in can be really intimidating. Especially if you’re an introvert.
Inside of most environmental activists and organizers –– including myself –– there’s an intense battle raging on between our passion for environmental justice and our fear of being seen and heard. It takes an immense amount of vulnerability to put your most intimate beliefs and worldviews out in the open for the world to see.
Despite that, we still choose to post on social media, attend rallies, and organize community meet-ups and events because we know it’s what we have to do in the face of the climate crisis.
If you’re someone who wants to get involved in environmental activism but, you’re not sure how to comfortably start, this guide is for you.
Here are three steps you can take to progressively ease into environmental activism and community outreach.
Step 1: Learn about environmentalism and the environment
“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”
–– Angela Davis
To be completely honest, when I first began my journey into environmental activism, I really only knew these two things:
- The climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation are issues that threaten my future and the future of all of Earth’s communities.
- This is an emergency and something needs to be done about it immediately.
From what I’ve gathered talking about climate activism with others, this is basically where most environmental activists begin. From there, the common course of action is to absorb as much information as possible about the science of the climate crisis.
While learning about the science of climate change is useful for strengthening your position and communicating it clearly with others, it’s not enough. Because here’s the truth: focusing your activism on science, facts, and logic will accomplish basically nothing.
If talking about the science really made an impact, we wouldn’t be where we are today –– in a situation where the scientific consensus on climate change and biodiversity loss is routinely questioned, ignored, or outright attacked by the very people who have the power to pass meaningful environmental legislation.
With that being said, I absolutely recommend that you start your journey into environmental activism by learning about the science, but please don’t stop there.
(For scientific information about the climate crisis and our path forward, check out the NASA: Climate Change and Global Warming website as well as the IPCC reports, the 2019 IPBES biodiversity report, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Last but not least, this explanation of our planetary boundaries is really helpful too.)
Once you have a clear understanding of what’s going on with our planet and what action steps our governments can take to prevent further warming, pollution, and biodiversity loss, I recommend that you take some time to look into the history of environmentalism and successful social movements across the world.
Here in the United States, a common place to start researching environmentalism is in the works of Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Edward Abbey. Although the work of these authors is undeniably crucial to understanding the landscape of modern environmentalist thought, it’s only a skim of the surface of the centuries of work done by Indigenous leaders to protect and conserve Earth and the natural resources we can’t live without –– the water we drink, the air we breathe.
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In your travels across the internet as you learn about environmentalism, you’ll (hopefully) come to find the term “intersectional environmentalism”. What does that mean?
“Justice, equity, and inclusion are crucial in our fight to save our home planet. Intersectional environmentalism is a type of environmentalism that advocates for the protection of both people and the planet. It recognizes that the injustices done to our most vulnerable communities and the Earth are interconnected.”
For a holistic understanding of environmental activism, take some time to thoroughly research the specific environmental issues and policies you care about along with information about intersectional environmentalism, environmental justice, and the history of the progressive social movements that shaped the world we live in today. Knowledge is power, and it’s free on the internet!
A friendly word of advice. As an introvert, I know how easy it is to fall into the “infinite research trap”. You know… when you fall into the vicious spiral of procrastination and perfectionism that paralyzes you from taking real action. This can be a really easy trap to fall into, especially when you’re going out on a limb with something new. If your heart is set on making a difference, don’t hold yourself back! The world needs to hear your voice.
Lastly, remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be an environmental activist. You’re a human –– you can have contradictions, imperfections, and room to learn more in the future. All that matters is that you’re well-intentioned, learn from mistakes, and are doing your best, whatever that looks like for you.
Step 2: Get involved in a local environmental activism group
Regardless of where you live in the world, there are likely active environmental activism groups in your area. And thanks to COVID-19, the meetings are basically all over Zoom — something I greatly appreciate as an introvert who tends to avoid in-person chapter meetings.
A few major activist organizations like Fridays for the Future, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace International, Conservation International, and Global Climate Strike are international, while others, like the Sunrise Movement, are country-specific.
Here are a few environmental activism groups that meet in different chapters around the United States:
- This is Zero Hour
- The Sunrise Movement
- Youth Climate Strike
- Greenpeace US
- The Climate Reality Project
- Extinction Rebellion
- The Sierra Club
- The Audubon Society
- The DSA Ecosocialist Working Group
In addition to regular environmental activism, campaigning for candidates with strong environmental policies is a great way to help push positive change in your community.
Working with a political campaign typically consists of a lot of interactions with the public at table events, canvassing, gathering signatures, or over the phone. Yes, it’s a ton of interacting with others — not very introvert friendly. But it’s great practice for communicating effectively with others.
Lastly, keep up with your local government’s office of sustainability (or the closest thing they’ve got to an office of sustainability). Opportunities arise for constituents to join in meetings and workshops to discuss the issues that need to be addressed on a local level. Your voice alone could change the landscape of your local community’s environmental actions and policies!
Step 3: Attend environmental activism rallies, strikes, and marches
There really isn’t a better feeling then being surrounded by a group of people who all come together for the common goal of making the world a better place.
Demonstrations and direct action are crucial to real, significant progress. Depending on the size and organization of these events, you’ll get a chance to meet other activists and could hear powerful speeches from local organizers, leaders, and politicians.
By joining up with a local environmental activism group, you can ensure that you’ll be aware of local actions and have a crew to roll up with.
If you’ve never been to a climate strike before, here are a few tips from Fridays for Future for making the most of it.
How to strike for the climate
- Talk to your friends and family; explaining what you are doing and why, and ask them to support you.
- Record a video telling your story, and post it on social media tagging your friends, YouTube influencers, leaders, and others — calling on them to join the #ClimateStrike. Use these hashtags too: #ActNow #FridaysForFuture
- Make a sign calling for whatever you want your leaders to do on climate. It could be “100% clean energy!” or “listen to science!” It’s your call — be creative!
- Talk to your schoolmates and teachers – tell them why you care about climate change and ask them to join you on the #ClimateStrike.
- Join the #ClimateStrike on a Friday. Make sure to agree a specific time in advance so everyone knows when to join! When the time comes, walk out of school in whatever way you think best.
- Once you’ve walked out – choose what is right. You might want to hold a quick rally on the school steps. Or you might want to sit on the steps outside your local politicians’ office and demand they take urgent climate action.
- How this has an impact – share photos and videos of the #ClimateStrike on social media, and tag your leaders.
- Please keep the #ClimateStrike peaceful and nonviolent at all times.
Ultimately, do whatever feels comfortable for you. There’s no “right” way to be an activist!
Take as long as you need to move through these steps and know that you’re making a positive difference already just by taking the time to learn more about environmental activism.
When learning about the climate crisis inevitably causes you to experience anxiety or depression (it’s something we all go through), take some time off and read the article I posted about overcoming eco anxiety and climate change depression here. Your mental health should always take priority.
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Comment and let me know how your journey into environmental activism is going! 🙂