A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a high school student in Michigan. She was working on a climate change research project and wanted to ask me a few questions, so of course I said yes. She asked me about my job at NASA, what I thought were the most pressing aspects of Earth’s changing climate, and the ocean’s role in long-term climate trends.
But then there was this question: “I like to do everything I can each day to reduce my own contribution to climate change … I want to encourage my peers to take small actions each day to help our climate, but will it really matter beyond making people feel good about themselves? ... It seems like there is nothing individuals can do.”
Now I’m a pretty direct person, but I’m also fairly kind to high school students, especially those I’ve never even met. Yet this time, I let her have it:
“You are wrong,” I stated bluntly, wishing an error buzzer noise could accompany my outgoing email message. “You are wrong about your own contribution being insignificant. One person's efforts are hugely important and don't you ever forget it.”
Sure, I understand it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed and powerless in the face of a tremendous problem such as climate change. I work on a climate change website every day—I get it. Just thinking about climate change and other environmental issues gets depressing. These problems are too big; they feel insurmountable. And then when you want to do something, it seems like whatever you do is too small, like a tiny drop in a gigantic pit.
But each and every single individual action, no matter how small it may seem, adds to what ultimately makes a difference. You may think, “One person isn’t going to make a big difference; it’s not going to be a big deal.” But taking responsibility for how your life affects the environment is a huge deal.
The Earth is amazing. And when you look at the view from space you see that the whole Earth is your home, our home. You see that what happens on the other side of the planet matters.
So go ahead: Take the journey from “there’s not much I can do” to “there are many things I will commit to doing.” Because together, our individual actions can make a bigger impact than you might ever imagine. And since Earth Day is coming up on April 22, now is the perfect time to begin that journey.
One of the things we’re doing to celebrate Earth Day this year is asking people around the world to share on social media views of their favorite place on Earth. As we rush through our busy lives, sometimes we forget to appreciate how much we care about this place we call home. We hope that if all of us take a moment to acknowledge and remember our planet, we'll feel more connected with it. And that's one small step toward making it a better place.
You can post photos, Vines and/or Instagram videos. Just be sure to include the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome – no matter what social media platform you’re using.
You can also get on board now by using our #NoPlaceLikeHome emoji as your profile pic. Join the Facebook or Google+ events and invite your friends to participate. Pledge to spend one day celebrating the planet that over 7 billion people call home.
Find out more at http://www.nasa.gov/likehome/.
Thanks for everything you do to care for our planet.
I visit the NASA website and review the data. CO2: Up. Ocean and land temperature: Up. Sea level: Up. Polar ice: Down.
But, as bizarre as this sounds ... I find myself pulling for the climate change deniers. Wouldn't it be swell if they were right? We could all just relax and ride around in huge cars, and life would be good again.
Like it was in 1970 when I showed up at the first Earth Day. Oh, wait. The smog kind of sucked back then. That might not be the best example.
But, what about the main reason the deniers give not to address climate change?: The cost.
As it turns out, a great example can be found back in smoggy Los Angeles in 1970. Many of us wanted to do something about the horrible choking smog of that era. But, we were told we couldn't afford it.
"We'd love to do something too, Ed, but ... the cost!" Fortunately, we didn't listen to them. Fortunately we also weighed healthcare costs and lost productivity into the equation, and realized the cost of doing nothing was much greater.
And, now, even though we have millions more people in L.A., and four times the cars ... we have far less smog. And, there were many jobs and tremendous wealth created by doing the things that addressed the problem.
Making catalytic converters, combined cycle gas turbines, spray paint booths, and a myriad of other clean technologies of that day - they all created new industries, and brought growth with them.
We have that same choice today. Do we want to accept the costs of doing nothing, and hope that the problem goes away?
So, please, do as I do, and direct everyone you know to reputable sources of climate data, such as NASA's Global Climate Change website. At every talk I give, I make sure that everyone is aware that this information if available. The clock is ticking, and to ignore the science on this one is the worst bet we have ever placed.
Ed Begley Jr. is an Emmy-nominated actor who is active in the environmental community and turns up to Hollywood events on his bicycle. He currently lives near Los Angeles in a self-sufficient home powered by solar energy.