Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023


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Opinion | Got Climate Doom? Here’s What You Can Do to Actually Make a Difference

2 min read

Genevieve Guenther and David Wallace-Wells on what matters and doesn’t in your personal fight against climate change.

Produced by ‘The Argument’

It’s no wonder so many people feel helpless about averting climate catastrophe. This is the era of dire warnings from many scientists and increasing natural disasters, record-breaking temperatures and rising tides. Fossil-fuel executives testify before Congress while politicians waver on whether they’ll support urgently needed changes to make American infrastructure sustainable. Thousands of youth activists at the Glasgow climate talks this week demonstrated for action from world leaders whose words convey the seriousness of the emergency but whose actions against major carbon contributors are lacking.

But, as host Jane Coaston says, “as fun as doomerism is, doomerism doesn’t do anything.” So what is an individual to do?

Recycle? Compost? Give up meat or flying or plastic straws? Protest in the streets?

To parse which personal actions matter and which don’t, Jane is joined by the climate activist and author Genevieve Guenther, who argues that for the wealthier citizens of the world, there are real steps that can be taken right away to help fight the current and impending climate catastrophes. Guenther lists them according to one’s ability, time and resources.

Also joining the debate is the author of “The Uninhabitable Earth,” David Wallace-Wells, who argues that while individual behavior is a good start, it won’t bring the change needed; only large-scale political action will save us. In this episode, Guenther and Wallace-Wells disagree about extinction and blame, but they agree that when individual political pressure builds into an unignorable movement, once-impossible-to-imagine solutions will be the key to saving our future.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Mentioned in this episode:

David Wallace-Wells for New York magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth”

Auden Schendler’s guest essay “Worrying About Your Carbon Footprint Is Exactly What Big Oil Wants You to Do”

Jason Mark for Sierra, “Yes, Actually, Individual Responsibility Is Essential to Solving the Climate Crisis”

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Thoughts? Email us at [email protected] or leave us a voice mail message at (347) 915-4324. We want to hear what you’re arguing about with your family, your friends and your frenemies. (We may use excerpts from your message in a future episode.)

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Sarah Geis and Alison Bruzek; fact-checking by Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; additional mixing by Carole Sabouraud; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin, Matt Kwong and Switch and Board Podcast Studio.

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