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Earth Day 2021: Change the system, change yourself

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As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 today, let us remember that while it’s true that the system needs to change, this doesn’t mean that our personal actions are no longer important.

Like nature and nurture, collective and individual action go hand in hand. Both are important. Both are needed. And are, in fact, interconnected. As individuals, the choices we make can have an impact on the decisions of others, and together we can change the world. Those who belittle our individual efforts to take climate action and live more sustainably, who say it’s the whole system that has to change and that we can’t make much of a difference as a person, probably just want us to despair and not even bother to attempt to change the world. Maybe because they don’t want the status quo to change.

Restore Our Earth

As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 today, let us remember that while it's true that the system needs to change, this doesn't mean that our personal actions are no longer important. Image credit: EARTHDAY.ORG
Image credit: EARTHDAY.ORG

The theme of Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth.

“Parallel to the Biden Administration’s global climate summit, EARTHDAY.ORG will have its second Earth Day Live digital event, right here. The global show begins at 12 PM Eastern Time.

“Workshops, panel discussions, and special performances will focus on Restore Our Earth — we’ll cover natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.”

Restoring our Earth means changing our lifestyles, while also demanding action from the world’s governments, holding them accountable, and dismantling the systems that are destroying our planet.

The climate strikes prove that individual actions matter. It all started with one Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, holding the first school strike for climate. But her individual actions inspired millions and launched the global Fridays for Future movement and a series of Global Climate Strikes.

Our actions, whether big or small, matter. And they can inspire others to take action as well.

We have so many ways of making a difference as individuals. For instance, we can ditch Google Search and switch to Ecosia, which lets you plant trees while searching the web. We can embrace renewable energy. We can donate to EARTHDAY.ORG.

Collective and individual action

One of my favorite authors, Rutger Bregman, who wrote “Utopia for Realists” and “Humankind: A Hopeful History”, has a brilliant article about personal responsibility, “Yes, it’s all the fault of Big Oil, Facebook and ‘the system’. But let’s talk about you this time“.

“In a recent interview, Thunberg emphasised the importance of collective and individual action. The headline: ‘Greta Thunberg hears your excuses. She is not impressed.’ She explained why she doesn’t want to fly around the world. ‘[I]t’s all about sending a signal that we are in a crisis and that in a crisis you change behaviour. If no one breaks this chain of ‘I won’t do this, because no one else is doing anything’ and ‘Look at them. They’re doing much worse than I am’ – if everyone keeps on going like that, then no one will change.’

“It didn’t take long for newspapers to proclaim the advent of the ‘Thunberg effect’. Her protest went viral, children persuaded their parents to make more of an effort, companies started spending much more money on sustainability, and politicians announced grand plans. The world is too complex to say what would have happened without Thunberg. But no one can deny that she has had an enormous impact.  

His “Utopia for Realists” reminds us that things like democracy, ending slavery, women’s suffrage, and LGBT rights were once considered crazy and dangerous ideas.

And I agree with Bregman. The so-called moderates, the centrists are the most frustrating because they will always say: “That’s never gonna happen. That’s too radical.” 

History shows that utopian ideas do come true.

Make every day Earth Day. Because the world starts to change when you do.


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