Comedian Matt Winning on why we all need to prepare for our personal climate journey.
The most common question, and by far the most important one, I am regularly asked about climate change by the public is “What can I do about it?” Most people are eager to know how they can contribute.
Taking part. Joining the fight. Doing something. But what?
There is so much confusing advice. Change your light bulbs. Stop flying. Go back in time and kill yourself as a child. It can be difficult to know what really makes a difference.
Perhaps the most important step, however, is to expand our understanding of what constitutes climate action.
More often than not, it is viewed through a very personal lens. What is my carbon footprint? What steps can we each take to reduce our household energy consumption, our food, our travel emissions? All good steps, for sure. But often these are hard changes to make, and many people cannot afford to do so. Inequality means not everyone has equal access to action.
Looking inwards like this, though, will only get you so far. The real change starts when we look outwards.
Your savings and pension are likely out there doing more damage than you think, while the scale of investment in mitigation required to achieve global climate targets needs to be from three to six times larger over the next decade.
Holding banks to account
For instance, where we bank really matters, because it determines who does what with our money on a much larger magnitude. Your savings and pension are likely out there doing more damage than you think, while the scale of investment in mitigation required to achieve global climate targets needs to be from three to six times larger over the next decade. But, when society shifts to say that we only want our savings invested in a clean transition, this shifts the social licence of fossil investors. Groups like Make My Money Matter are pushing this agenda by holding big banks and pension funds to account.
I spent years as a climate researcher, hoping I was making a difference, but in academia it can be hard to know. Eventually, I found my own niche by combining my job with my passion. Now, I travel around the country (mostly by train) performing comedy shows about climate change. Audience members often email telling me they enjoyed it and learnt something, and they’ve now switched their energy provider, sold their car or joined a climate charity. This is me looking outwards and making a far bigger impact than I could ever do on my own.
I’m not saying you need to hit the road as a comedian, but I am suggesting you go on your own climate action journey. Ask yourself: what am I good at? What do I have time for? What do I enjoy? The best place to start is in your own community, with local groups of likeminded people who share the same goals. Community is the bridge to meaningful climate action.
Dr Matt Winning is an environmental researcher with a PhD in climate policy, a stand-up comedian and author of the book Hot Mess: What on Earth Can We Do About Climate Change?
This article first appeared in RSA Journal Issue 3 2023.