Environmental writer Emma Marris (author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World) offers a five-step process in the New York Times for confronting the climate crisis without being overwhelmed by hopelessness.
Marris's advice is to focus on climate as a systemic problem, with collective solutions — rather than beating yourself up about your individual choices about how you travel or which things you recycle. You cannot recycle your way out of climate change — you can only join and support mass movements to create deep, systemic changes.
That's one of the reasons I'm supporting Bernie Sanders in the 2020 election and spending as much as I can to help him get elected.
The five points Marris makes are: "Ditch the shame" (your car didn't cause climate change); "Focus on systems, not yourself" (go after electing the right people and making the right laws, not on greening your consumption habits); "Join an effective group"; "Define your role" (find a way to help that group) and "Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against" (imagine a better future, not just averting a worse one).
As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, "The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it's dangerous." It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.
As long as we are competing for the title of "greener than thou," or are paralyzed by shame, we aren't fighting the powerful companies and governments that are the real problem. And that's exactly the way they like it.
How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change [Emma Marris/New York Times]