There is a virus, unlike Covid-19, that focuses on slowly attacking and deteriorating the surrounding ecosystems of all human beings. Its secondary effect is already catching up to people in many parts of the world, but it will eventually affect everyone if we don’t do anything to stop it. The “CC virus” or most commonly known as "Climate Change” has been around for more than 3 decades, but why are we not doing anything to stop it?
When the year 2019 started, all of us had many plans and goals that were stalled due to COVID-19, one of the biggest and deadliest pandemics of our modern era. The whole world paralyzed as we watched hopelessly how the virus spread all over the continents. China, one of the greatest economies in the world, as well as many other countries, completely shut down their economy with hopes to help mitigate this fairly new virus.
Why didn’t we act quicker though? I was in Mexico when I started hearing the news about the virus in China, but I did not make much of it. It might sound unempathetic, but at that moment it was not affecting me or anyone around me. However, as soon as the first cases were reported in Europe, the United States, and Mexico, my whole attitude towards the virus changed. I started washing my hands more often, wearing facemasks, avoiding crowded places, etc. What if all of us did that before the virus actually spread? Most likely, our daily lives would not have been as impacted as they actually are. We knew it was dangerous, we knew it was highly infectious, we knew that it could potentially spread all over the world, but still, we did not do much to contain it. This could be explained by the PAIN theory. According to Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist, human brains are only moved to act if the situation is Personal, Abrupt, Immoral, or it is happening Now.
However, climate change is Personal when the most beautiful beaches in your country are disappearing due to the rise of sea level, it is Abrupt when the mystic forests in the mountains are consumed rapidly by a raging fire, it is Immoral when we take more than we need and leave nothing to the future generations, and last but not least, it is happening NOW.
COVID-19 has taught us that the world can unite, that we can act and work together towards the same objective, but most importantly, it taught us that we need everyone on board in order to mitigate the issue. We are not the scientists creating the vaccines, or politicians taking crucial decisions for our countries, but we are humans acting empathetically, we wear our masks in the supermarket, we avoid crowded places or traveling, we do little things that in the end help achieve the bigger picture. Climate change is exactly the same thing! We might not be the biggest geniuses developing inventions to clean oceans or coming up with the latest photovoltaic technology, but we know very well we can help mitigate climate change by doing the little things. We have a choice of cycling or carpooling, turning that light off before leaving the room, recycling our trash, start doing compost, saying no to fast-fashion clothing, taking our own bags to the supermarket, shower in the shortest time possible, eating less meat, not using disposable utensils, and the list goes on and on.
If all of us put a little bit of effort, we will achieve a whole lot of progress. I don’t know about you, but I still want to be able to enjoy our beautiful Earth as it is. I still want to go for a swim in the ocean, feel the warmth and softness of clean sand, or go for a walk in a magical forest, appreciate our fauna in its natural habitat, or to put it in perspective; how about being able to breath clean air without the need of facemasks forever?
We need everyone on board in order to achieve our green goals. Politicians, professors, kids, students, CEOs, farmers, fishermen, workers, everyone! I know it is impossible to be 100% sustainable, but it is 100% possible to be an imperfect environmentalist as you continuously improve. At the end of the day, if we don’t do anything to stop climate change, we, the human kind will disappear. The popular belief is that we are killing our planet, but the planet will stay here for thousands of years more and a new form of life will appear.
So, should we wait until the ‘PAIN’ becomes lethal or should we act now?
Written by: Adrian Figueroa
Master student Energy for Society