A road sign in a flood.

Taking action to combat climate breakdown

I wrote a couple of weeks back about the challenge of responding to climate breakdown. In particular, I wrote about the need to mitigate climate change, to adapt to its impacts and to enhance our resilience to climate-related shocks. I also mentioned that there are, in my view, different scales at which we can do these things. And it’s this idea of scales of action that I’d like to explore in a little more detail.

I’ve taken to thinking about our response to climate breakdown in terms of zones of action. And while I’m still in the early days of my thinking on this, the zones I’m working with at the moment are as follows:

  • Personal: Each of us as an individual.
  • Household: The people we live with on a day-to-days basis.
  • Community: The wider group of people around us, with whom we share some form of connection.
  • Society: Everyone else with whom we share this planet, at both national and international levels.

I consider these zones to be like a series of concentric circles, with us as individuals in the middle and the other zones radiating out around us. The figure below hopefully gives you a bit of an idea about what I mean.

My zones for taking action to combat climate breakdown

If you’re looking at this thinking ‘hey, this looks a lot like the notion of zones in permaculture’, then you’d be absolutely right. I’m a big fan of permaculture and it was the idea of zones in permaculture systems that inspired my thinking here.

The personal zone is the most important, in my view, because it includes not only the actions that we take as individuals, but also the mental frameworks that govern the actions that we take and are able to take. The personal zone is about ideas as much as it is about action.

If we’re convinced that climate breakdown is a load of old hokum, for example, then we’re not going to be doing much about it, in this or any other zone. But equally, if we’re keen to take action but are paralysed into indecision by the scale of the task ahead, then we’re likewise unlikely to achieve anything productive.

Climate breakdown is going to have a significant impact on the life choices available to us and to those around us. Especially to those in the younger generations. A big part of the personal zone is understanding what this impact will look like and coming to terms with it.

It’s also about the action that we take as individuals to mitigate climate change, to adapt to its impacts and to enhance our resilience to climate-related shocks. This might include where we choose to live, our choice of career path and whether we choose to start a family.

The household zone is where we start to take tangible action. By household, I mean the unit in which we live on a day-to-day basis. For me, this is my wife, our dogs and me in our three bedroom, semi-detached house in a small market town in Somerset. Your household may include other family members or flatmates. Or you might live on your own.

Action taken in the household zone to mitigate climate breakdown will include things like minimising resource use, recycling where possible, using green energy and travelling in an eco-friendly manner. On the adaptation front, it might include fitting blinds or shutters to increase shade. And in terms of enhancing resilience, you may choose to install some form of energy storage, start a vegetable garden or install some water butts.

The specific actions taken in the household zone will depend on the particular climate risks where you live. If you live in an area that is likely to flood, for example, then investing in flood mitigation measures (or perhaps even moving house) is likely to be a priority. Whereas if you live in an area that is easily cut off in adverse weather, securing access to food, water and energy for short periods ‘off the grid’ may be more relevant.

The community zone is where we work with others to do things that we cannot do on our own. I’m thinking mostly in terms of geographical communities here, whether that’s a small hamlet, a market town or part of a city. But it could apply equally to other communities of which you are a part, such as your workplace, your children’s school, or a social or hobby group of which you are a part.

I’m still developing my thoughts about opportunities within the community zone to mitigate, to adapt and to create resilience. But I do know that it’s important that communities are able to work together. Because when the chips are down, it’s those around us that we will need to call upon for help.

The sort of things that come to mind here are community energy generation projects, community farms, small-scale local manufacturing ‘industries’, local employment opportunities and community emergency response initiatives. Anything that provides the community with things that it needs (e.g. food, fibre, fuel) and allows it to continue to operate independently of larger national and international systems, in the event that these cease to function.

There are loads of opportunities here. Lots of things are happening already, of course, but there’s so much more that we can do. And the great thing is that, even without the growing threat of climate breakdown, these would all still be valuable things to do. (If you’re involved in a community project, please do get in touch. I’d love to learn more about what you’re doing.)

The society zone is much more big picture. It’s about the national, international and global politics of climate breakdown. It’s about the decisions made by world leaders, the commitments they make and the actions they take. It’s also about the global-scale impacts of climate breakdown, such as cross-border migration and conflicts over dwindling resources.

Unless you’re a president or a prime minister, there’s not necessarily much that you can do directly in the society zone. But we are all able to lobby our political leaders, to support national and international campaigns, and to donate to charities and pressure groups advocating for action and positive change. And when politicians do have the courage to speak up about climate breakdown, we can let them know that they have our support.

I’ll write more about the action I’m taking in each of these zones in a separate blog post at some point. But for the moment, if you have any thoughts or comments about my zone-based approach, please do drop me a line. I’m still developing my thinking in this area and am keen to learn how other people approach these things.

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Image: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash





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