How to overcome eco-anxiety…
While I haven’t softened my position on Just Stop Oil’s tactics, I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for them. As well as their younger activists, they seem to be attracting an older contingent who seem frustrated and clearly want to do something to ease the climate crisis and give their grandkids a better future. The problem is they seem to be doing anything without necessarily thinking through their actions – the orange confetti thrown at ex-Chancellor George Osborne’s wedding (disowned by JSO, but clearly influenced and defended by them on social media) brought sympathy for the bride and groom from unexpected sources (including me).
The other problem with direct action is that anybody can adopt that tactic. The gillets jaunes protests disrupted quite minor green policies by the French Government. Self-styled freedom vigilantes have vandalised the cameras that enforce the London Ultra Low Emission Zone and, across the land, bollards forming Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have been destroyed. While all these actions are indefensible to my eyes, what do the JSO actions look like to others?
So what can you do? I’ve long been an advocate for positive individual action, which I believe resonates way beyond the action itself. If you pick up litter, use a bike for your commute or organise a green committee at work, you are not only making a (tiny) positive contribution, more importantly, you are influencing other people. Seeing you do positive things will give people permission/shame them into acting too, so the benefits get amplified.
Why? We are herd animals. I remember when kerbside recycling was undertaken by just a few on our street, but gradually more and more neighbours joined in until it became the norm. I know that ditching my car and buying a cargobike has influenced others – I get requests for test rides, just like the test ride I requested from a friend of a friend before I took the plunge. And as a local politician, I would advise anybody who wants a greener future to write to their democratic representatives about what they would like to see (and encourage others to do the same), because, trust me, the anti-change contingent are far, far more likely to write than those pro-change.
The old cliché is “be the change you want to see in the world” – and your actions will speak louder than words (or chucking orange powder around).