Let’s face it: the climate crisis is depressing. As I write this on a beautiful, cool summer day, I can almost forget about it. Almost. But it’s always there now, this knowledge of our shifting ecosystems and livelihoods at risk.

The climate crisis is this huge, overwhelming thing that is, honestly, painful and hard to sit with. It can be really challenging to move past the enormity of it and then, figure out, well what should I do? 

What if I told you that there is something you can do, a climate action that also will help you make new friends and make you feel happier while you’re having fun? It turns out that the secret ingredient to climate action is hiding in plain sight: community.

When we talk about climate action, we often think about two different scales – the individual scale and the systemic scale. Things on the individual actions list include not eating meat, flying less, using less plastic, and composting. Things on the systemic scale include building out mass transit options, electrifying homes and buildings, and scaling up renewable energy. 

The truth is, the individual actions are great, but they’re just not enough to get us where we need to be, precisely because our individual actions are shaped by the systems around us. I may want to take a train to visit family in other parts of the country, but that train either doesn’t exist or is too time and cost-intensive. I may want to bike with my kids to school, but if there are no sidewalks and it doesn’t feel safe, I’ll drive. 

Most of our lives, most of what is important to us and shapes us, is somewhere in between these two poles of the individual and the system – our family, neighborhood, town government and workplace, that is, our communities. And in each of these spaces, we have a lot of power to influence other people and advocate for change. What would happen if each of us decided to advocate for climate action in our neighborhoods? In our children’s schools? At work? Even if your job isn’t related at all to the environment, how can you think about encouraging small shifts there? Could your neighborhood start a solar committee to share information and create a fund to make solar accessible to everyone? Could your family start learning more about local plants and planting them together at your home and at friends’ houses?


Have you ever seen starlings, or videos of starlings, in murmuration? The writer adrienne maree brown has written about how the patterns of these birds can inspire our actions as humans. When starlings fly in murmuration, thousands of birds move together in ways that look choreographed but are spontaneous, with no leader. Scientists have learned that the way they do this is by paying attention to the seven birds closest to them to know what to do. They don’t move on their own. They move in community. 

When we do things together, we build the critical connections needed for resilience because building community itself is a climate action. Nurturing relationships, deepening networks, starting conversations where you might not want to, stretching your natural empathy to meet your neighbor who disagrees with you about (lots of) things. When we take action together, our impact is amplified. 

Who are your seven starlings? Who are you close to, who could you influence to take climate action seriously, to start now? Talk to your friends and your neighbors and just start. There’s no time to lose. 

Kate Olson is a writer and sociologist based in Freeport. She is also a member of Freeport Climate Action Now, a community-led effort to take local action on climate change. Learn more about her work at kate-olson.com 

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