By Anna Bell
Before I begin, I want to tell you about myself so that you can gain some insight into my perspective. I am 24 years old, making me part of the “Next Generation” that you’ve probably heard about. I graduated from Uni a couple of years ago and entered that dreadful void that comes with not knowing what you are going to do with your life. It was quite a difficult time for me. The education system had provided a solid structure to my life for the past fifteen years and to have that removed suddenly made me feel completely lost. If you’re like me and you went to Uni because it was “the next thing to do” after high school, and wanted to do everything you could to postpone inevitable adulthood, this might sound familiar. If I could go back in time and choose again, I would absolutely choose something more vocational, like an apprenticeship, but hindsight is 20/20.
I always knew I wanted to do something purposeful that aligned with my personal values. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve always been someone with a strong belief in community. For me, I believe in community in the most traditional sense, the kind of community where you can borrow things from your neighbours or where everyone within a 5-mile radius would attend the local Gala Day. I think this comes from spending time a lot of time with my Grandparents and listening to their nostalgic stories of “back in their day”. That sense of a traditional community would certainly feature in my version of Utopia.
For me, the need for community is rooted within those warm-fuzzy feelings of individuals coming together and collectively contributing to something bigger. It’s the desire to actually care about what happens to your “neighbour” and to have them care about you as a result of our shared attitudes and interests.
We currently live in a very individualistic society, which is increasingly replicated across most Western societies, where the needs of the individual are valued higher than the needs of the community. We value our independence and we are encouraged to be self-reliant. We are guilty of putting the well-being of ourselves before the well-being of a greater community. To put it plainly, we tend to do things that are best for us.
When it comes to climate change, an individualistic way of living does not align with effective climate action. We are asked to do things for the greater good of the global community so that we can avoid suffering or worse, total catastrophe. This is difficult to do when we’ve been looking out for number one for so long.
For example, I know that taking the bus to work is better for the planet and in turn the global community because it produces less CO2 than taking the car. However, if I take the bus to work, I have to wake up earlier in the morning, I have to then rely on unreliable public transport and then when I’m on the bus it takes twice as long to get to my destination. To be honest, that’s the short straw for me, so I always choose to take the car because it is faster and far more convenient for me.
Covid and the subsequent lockdowns were the same. Everyone was aware, especially in the early days, that we were dealing with a highly infectious and mysterious virus, and measures were put in place to stop the spread. Despite this, people almost immediately started breaking the rules, in small ways for some, bigger ways for others, even though they were implemented for the sake of the national community. People were eager to exercise their need to do whatever was the better thing for them at that time.
Considering all of this, it’s no wonder that we’ve found acting on climate change so difficult. We need to act as a community, or the community will be no more. This is contrary to the individualistic culture that’s been ingrained in us for as long as we’ve been around. I believe that’s why so many of us feel isolated and deflated when thinking about tackling climate change, and how overwhelming this task seems when you are but one person on a planet of billions of individuals.
Being part of this community is an opportunity to overcome this ingrained individualism that often leads to feelings of isolation. It’s about being connected to ordinary people who want to do something that can contribute to improving our society and improving things for the greater good through any small act of collectivism.
To join the Fuel Change Community, click here.