by Jo Doumbia

Can you believe that what we are experiencing and reading refers to the fact that we’ve just lived through the hottest two months in human history, that ocean water off the coast of South Florida is now as warm as your hot tub, and that winter temperatures in South America are topping 38C or 100F? And if that wasn’t enough, there were more than a thousand wildfires burning across Canada and more recently in Hawaii, at the same time as record floods around the world from Nova Scotia to Slovenia to eastern China were inundating homes and putting lives at risk?

The reason that setting new temperature records is a big deal is that we are now being challenged to find ways to survive through temperatures hotter than any of us have ever experienced before, and as said by the University of Wisconsin-Madison climate scientist Andrea Dutton, “soaring temperatures place ever increasing strains not just on power grids and infrastructure, but on human bodies that are not equipped to survive some of the extreme we are already experiencing.

The immediate question is then what can we do. Well, the environmentalist Bill McKibben wisely puts it as follows: “One of the most effective things an individual can do is not be such an individual.” He means that when we join forces with others, our voices can become louder and our impact stronger.
Well, on the same matter, the anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

While reflecting on this, I focused on what could be a common agenda for action; not exhaustive nor in particular order, I identified a series of actions such as, increasing the number of trees, greening our grounds, and working towards establishing / strengthening wildlife crossings and habitat corridors; cleaning up polluted stormwater runoff and addressing flood and climate resilience; accelerating transportation electrification and reducing vehicle pollution; powering schools with solar energy; realizing savings from the implementation of energy efficiency measures; and promoting environmental justice.

Reflecting further, I see that some are under our direct reach and responsibility but others require the will of our government officials. And yet some require the effort and commitment from both sides.

I am zeroing here on those directly under our control. Our connection to the air is sacred. Air connects us to the natural kingdom – we inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide that the plants need to manufacture their food, and they in turn release oxygen which we need. A constant giving and receiving, a cyclical interaction that goes through our entire lives. We have also separated ourselves from the earth by way of roads, concrete, and buildings. But, what a privilege many of us have. What if many of us begin/continue transforming available pieces of land through:

  • Planting with a purpose by finding the right native plants and trees for our area
  • Creating our own wildlife sanctuaries, as once they take root, natives need little-to-no maintenance. That means, you can benefit from and enjoy beautiful nature spaces without much extra work
  • Supporting local wildlife as certain declining wildlife species (think bees, butterflies, and birds) can’t survive without natives, which provide floral diversity, rich food and nectar, and pollen sources 
  • Reducing our footprint since carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change, when planting we help protect our planet by drawing carbon out of the air and releasing oxygen, which is essential to all life on Earth.

However, reducing our footprint also covers stopping polluting the ground with pesticides and at-large with plastics and wastes; as those indiscriminately can go to our water streams polluting them, to landfills polluting soil and generating greenhouse gases, and to incinerators releasing toxic air pollutants.

Other actions, under our control, relate to implementing energy optimization measures in our homes and places of worship; embedding environmental justice elements in our practices, whenever possible; demanding our government officials to fulfill their obligations to comply with their commitments to reduce climate impacts; and electing officials who would advance an agenda geared towards climate solutions.