To celebrate Earth Day, we’re sharing a guest post by Stephanie Tong, a passionate environmental advocate with incredible insight into how we can start engaging in environmental activism via our social media platforms.
Y ou’ve heard about buying sustainable clothing and Meatless Mondays. You’ve heard about using reusable bags and skipping the straw to save the turtles. But why is it that “just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988”? Sure, we can vote with our dollar and calculate our personal carbon footprint to individually yet collectively chip away at the behemoth of climate change pummeling toward us. But why would those 100 companies do their part when it’s legally profitable to slowly poison the masses (e.g. water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution)? While both personal and corporate responsibility is needed, think about the leverage those 100 companies have to save our lives from climate change.
So how do we create a legal system that encourages cyclical, healthy economic systems? Not everyone can afford to nor should everyone have to live on a non-profit treehugger salary or become a city council representative. But our political representatives - national to local - need to hear our opinions because those 100 companies have historically been the loudest voices with their lobbyists. Thankfully, activists are sharing on social media what you can do to help get your voice heard.
Many environmental activists and organizations share bite-sized information on their social media, which is great for busy lives. And when there’s a push for legislation that doesn't seem to be relevant to saving the Earth, or when politicians supported by oil lobbies try to convince us it doesn’t matter, you can learn the context to save lives and create a more just society.
There may be a push to create 2,500-foot buffer zones between schools and oil rigs (California AB345 2019-2020). At first, half a mile doesn’t seem like much of a buffer between spewing cancerous fumes and children playing and learning. But when you learn that California has no buffer zone at all, then yes, a 2,500-foot buffer zone seems like a no-brainer. Follow @stand_losangeles to learn more.
Sometimes environmental organizations support Black Lives Matter actions. But if you’re just trying to save the Earth, why would you want to dive into the BLM world? This gets into intersectional environmentalism. When you learn how the environmental movement has roots in the civil rights movement, it makes more sense. What helps the labor movement, helps the racial justice movement, helps the feminist movement, helps the environmental movement, helps… you get it. Follow @greengirlleah to learn more.
Sometimes environmental organizations have a land acknowledgement in their content. For example, much of Los Angeles used to be Tongva land (you can find your territory acknowledgement here or here). What does stolen land from hundreds of years ago have to do with saving the Earth? When you learn about what the stolen land was used for, you can see how the native suppression still plays a role in today’s environmental destruction. Follow @ndncollective to learn more.
The How to Save a Planet podcast gives me life every week. They ask the question: what do we need to do to solve the climate crisis, and how do we get it done? It’s approachable and technical, and they share actions every week. I’d suggest the podcast, but since this article is about social media, @how2saveaplanet is helpful too.
Author's Note: You can start with these channels, but you’ll find they’ll partner with other voices that you may want to also follow. It’s a community that builds each other up.
Especially when we live in an over-policed society, it can be dangerous to protest when the cops show up with their hand-me-down militarized riot gear. But you don’t have to put yourself in danger when you haven’t found the community support yet. Environmental groups share their most accessible actions on social media, some taking only a minute to complete. These actions can be as simple as signing a petition, messaging your representatives referencing a script, or sharing a post.
Start following your local hub for Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Food & Water Action, or Black Lives Matter (Los Angeles hubs linked). Again, you can start with these channels, but you’ll see they’ll partner with other voices that you may want to also follow. Around election time, they may also endorse local candidates and give recommendations on those down-ballot elections that we all hear are more impactful than the national elections, but don’t get discussed nearly as much.
Local organizations working on grassroots movements have the local knowledge to help develop and identify effective sustainable legislation. However, these organizations don’t always have the money to spread their messages far and wide, so be sure to amplify and share their message.
Most importantly, have fun with it! When you’re learning about how our society is destined for self-imposed doom, it doesn’t help our society become more sustainable when our mental health is unsustainable. Climate anxiety is a thing. When we need to cut emissions by half by 2030 and be net-zero by 2050 globally, we need you to be happy and healthy fighting with us for the long haul.
I hope your social media time can help chip away at the existential crisis hurdling at us knowing that we’re all building a more livable, just society one small action at a time. 💚
Stephanie loves noodles, dancing, and the Earth. She's a licensed civil engineer in Los Angeles with roots in Texas and Hong Kong. She's known to give "the best hugs."