Climate change is real. Here’s what we can do about it.
At SELF, we are committed to exploring the many intersections of personal and public health. We are also committed to believing and trusting science. So our brand’s stance on the climate crisis couldn’t be clearer: We are in a state of environmental emergency, and humans are the vast majority to blame.
As is increasingly the case, Earth Day comes this year in the wake of devastating environmental disasters that underscore just how alarming the climate crisis really is. In February, a winter storm swept through Texas, killing at least 111 people; their deaths were mainly due to hypothermia. A few months earlier, the ‘record breaking’ and ‘relentless’ Atlantic hurricane season of 2020 ended after 30 named storms, a number so large that it took experts to dive into the Greek alphabet for the second time. . And as the bookends of an appalling year, wildfires have ravaged the west coast, killing at least 43 people directly and causing at least 1,200 more smoke-related deaths. The destruction was reminiscent of the Australian bushfires that sounded in 2020 long before many of us heard the word ‘coronavirus’. Australia’s bushfire season is only expected to worsen in parallel with global warming. From India to Brazil and beyond, people around the world are suffering the effects of “natural” disasters, which many climatologists say are no longer so natural.
These types of events deserve attention. The people they reach deserve empathy and help, yes, but also structural access to the resources that would protect them when these climate disasters strike. Both statements also – or even specially – represent people struggling not only with climate change, but also with environmental racism and injustice. Like the residents of the predominantly black town of Jackson, Mississippi, which, thanks to government inaction and winter storms, has had no drinking water for a month this year. And black and Latin people struggle with disproportionate asthma diagnoses largely due to a higher likelihood of having to live near sources of pollution such as sanitation facilities. Homeless people who face greater health risks while resisting sweltering heat waves with unsanitary shelter. (It should be noted that climate change, in turn, can increase the number of homeless people.) Indigenous peoples, including the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who have put their lives at risk in protest against pipelines that threaten the sanctity and security of their water.
So the next question should be: what can we all do about it? That’s the crux of the question we want to answer in the April SELF digital cover story: 30 Ways to Live Sustainably and Fight Climate Change. Rachel ramirez, journalist on climate and environmental justice, set out to find out what 30 renowned experts in the field believe each one can do to make a real difference. To be clear: the vast majority of climate change comes down to much bigger forces than any individual can control. In just one example, the US military emits more greenhouse gases than some countries. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do it – or we can’t make a difference as a collective. So if you’re up for something about it, head over here to read Ramirez’s galvanizing take-out, paired with a cute set of themed photos. Creative Director Amber Venerable brought in photographers Heather Hazzan and Graydon Herriott, pledging to only use props the team already had on hand rather than buying anything new, at except flowers. These came from local farms, and Venerable then brought them home rather than throwing them away.
It’s been a long year. Along with dealing with the pandemic and the news of constant and heart-wrenching racism against several groups of people, the scale of the climate crisis could make you feel powerless. I have definitely been there too. But editing this digital cover helped me realize how powerful our individual choices are, especially when we come together.