Climate Action: How to start saving the world

The climate crisis is scary enough. The intimidating first steps of getting involved in climate activism as a student can feel similarly scary – but they don’t need to be

Feature by Hannah George | 08 Sep 2022
  • Climate Action Illustration

Climate activism is for everyone

First things first, if you want to get involved with climate activism, then you can and you should. The climate justice movement must include everyone to make lasting change and be successful. The more voices that are included, the better the solutions will be. You don’t need to be an expert; you can learn as you go. You don’t need to have lots of time; you can give as many minutes, hours, or days to activism as feels right for you.

Dismantle any preconceived ideas of what activism should look like: protests and direct actions are not the only form of climate activism. The work that goes on behind the scenes to create a successful campaign and build a movement is vitally important to these more public forms of protest. Everyone has a skill that is necessary to the climate movement, whether that’s designing posters for a march, running communications for an action, or lobbying your local MP. Most climate groups hold meetings online, meaning you can get involved wherever you live. Follow The Bad Activist Collective (@badactivistcollective) for more tips on how to let go of perfectionism and get started with activism.

Learn about climate justice

Equipping yourself with knowledge of the root causes of the climate crisis can be an empowering tool to support climate activism and help educate those around you. Climate justice addresses the historical exclusion of marginalised groups from the climate movement and recognises the interlinked oppressive systems of capitalism and colonialism that have caused the climate emergency. The effects of the climate crisis and the responsibility for its causes are not evenly distributed and learning about these concepts can allow you to be critical of climate change ‘solutions’ which often distract from the actions of polluting governments and fossil fuel companies.

As a student, take advantage of the resources and learning opportunities available to learn about climate justice and incorporate it into your studies. The Yikes Podcast (@theyikespodcast) is also a great resource if you want to learn more about climate justice.

Find your niche

Again, there isn’t one way to be an activist; it’s about finding what feels meaningful to you. You don’t have to campaign for every issue to be considered a climate activist. Follow your interests and this will lead you to the most fulfilling work. For instance, if you are interested in food, join a local food-cooperative or community garden. Research existing campaign groups at university or in your community to find what you are passionate about: from arms divestment to reducing fast fashion to refugee rights, many issues intersect with the climate crisis. Follow Intersectional Environmentalist (@intersectionalenvironmentalist) for more information about how these issues overlap.

Join a group or action

Joining a climate group or signing up to an action is a great way to get stuck into climate activism.  Collaborative and collective action is required to make change, not to mention that finding like-minded people can make activism much more enjoyable. Find a group at your university or college and if there isn’t one, set one up.

If you’re unsure where to start, join Young Friends of the Earth Scotland (@yfoes), a youth-led climate group through which you can attend local actions and join online working groups on issues such as access and inclusion and the cost-of-living crisis. Multiple climate groups are currently campaigning to stop the Jackdaw gas field from going ahead. You can follow @stopcambo for more information on how to join the campaign. If you are attending a protest, make sure that you know your rights. SCALP, the Scottish Community & Activist Legal Project (@activists_legal), publishes loads of useful information about staying safe at protests. Last but not least, join a union! Whether that is your student union or a trade union at your workplace, joining a union can help you to amplify the issues you care about and make change.

Look after yourself

Engaging with the climate emergency can be tough, especially when it feels like progress is slow. It is essential to look after your mental health by taking time out and doing things that you enjoy. Organising in a way that feels right for you, finding your community, and enjoying the work that you do will make activism sustainable and long-term. Try to avoid reading too much negative climate news – this is the quickest way to burn out and lose motivation.

The Resilience Project (@theclimateresilience) has great resources and workshops on how to navigate eco-anxiety and build resilience in the face of the climate emergency. As a student, these emotions can be tricky to grapple with: as you study for a degree when the world is burning, you might question what kind of future you are striving for. Getting involved with climate activism and working towards change can alleviate eco-anxiety and feelings of climate doom and allow you to meet new people and gain skills along the way. What’s not to love?