By Hutton Marshall / SanDiego350.org
Last month’s annual Earth Day reminded people all over the globe of the importance of our planet’s health to everyday lives and to survival of future generations. Locally, thousands swarmed Balboa Park to celebrate the popular Earth Fair San Diego.
Earth Day plays a larger role than sending a powerful message about the necessity of environmental protection and sustainability. More directly, it attracts countless volunteers in San Diego and beyond to spend the holiday working toward creating a healthier planet and pushing back against forces that are rapidly changing our climate.
Unfortunately, for many volunteers, Earth Day may be the only day of the year we get out and work to combat climate change, despite widespread understanding of the need for action. This happens for a number of reasons. Finding free time to contribute to environmental causes in between our jobs, families and ever-growing list of obligations may seem impractical, but we all have an opportunity to make a difference. Almost every person, no matter how busy or chaotic their lives may be, can find a way to take meaningful action. Here are ways that we at SanDiego350 suggest.
Volunteer for a Local Environmental Organization
There’s a misconception among many that volunteers for environmental organizations are all seasoned experts on climate change and other issues. In reality, only a small minority begin with a robust understanding of climate science or political activism. Most volunteers, present company included, begin with only an understanding of the need for action on climate change, but with little knowledge of environmental activism.
These organizations need help in a variety of ways, so whatever your skill set may be, or however limited your free time is, chances are these organizations will be able to utilize – and will greatly appreciate – any help you offer. Whether you’re more comfortable writing articles, speaking with elected officials, making phone calls to volunteers, or educating the public about the issue, there’s something for everyone. If you’re on the fence about getting involved, simply attending a meeting is a great way to meet like-minded people, and see what kind of difference you can make.
Lead by Example
Some of our schedules are too chaotic for regular volunteering at environmental organizations, or maybe being part of a formalized group doesn’t appeal to you. And while these organizations often focus on big policy and social changes that will impact cities, states and countries, there are a number of small steps you can take. Did you know that people are most likely to be influenced by their friends and family? By making your day-to-day life greener, you can inspire those around you to do the same.
For starters, try walking or biking to work or school whenever possible–your body and your wallet will thank you for that. Installing solar panels and insulation, going “zero waste” and installing low-flow shower heads to reduce water usage are all ways to make an impact without any time commitment – and are likely to save money over time.
One of the easiest ways for most people to significantly lower their carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of meat and dairy they eat – say cutting out a cheeseburger or two a week — because raising livestock for food is tremendously energy and water intensive. John Robbins, once heir to the world’s largest ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, makes convincing arguments in his book and film Diet for a New America why we should not eat ice cream or other animal products.
Your body and wallet will thank you for taking these actions – not to mention future generations.
By talking up how much you care about climate change and how great these personal actions make you (or your wallet) feel, you can be sure those around you will take notice and will soon be asking your advice on taking their own steps.
Attend Break Free L.A.
If you enjoyed the energy and community of Earth Day, attending more large scale events is a great way to contribute to the cause, and feel like part of the movement toward sustainability. On May 14, Break Free L.A. will rally thousands behind a global movement to break free from fossil fuels to work toward a more sustainable global economy. Reserve a seat on the bus, get more information or volunteer.
Letters to the Editor
If you’re reading this column, chances are you read other news media about environmentalism as well. Staying informed by reading is great, but engaging in the conversation by commenting on an article or submitting a letter to the editor is better. By sharing your perspective, you can inform readers, build momentum, and let the media and our elected officials know that San Diegans want to see climate solutions implemented.
While personal changes to reduce our carbon footprints are important, they won’t get us to the large scale emission reductions we need without big policy changes . As mentioned before, environmental organizations rely on big changes in government and in popular sentiment to combat climate change. And those policy changes won’t happen unless we elect legislators willing to take bold, decisive action on climate change. With the November election quickly approaching–and with all three federal branches of government in play, as well as local races –this is a critical time for San Diego voters to participate.
Words from SanDiego350 Volunteers
Finally, to impart the importance along with rewards of volunteering, several of SanDiego350’s most active members offered perspectives on their work combatting climate change.
“I’ve done a lot of work around media for SD350 events and it can be really rewarding when it all comes together – like it did around the time of the Pope’s visit to Congress last September when I helped coordinate media for a Press Conference at a Catholic Church and also for an Interfaith Climate Justice Forum where representatives from all the major religions spoke. It got covered by six local TV stations plus the UT and other print outlets, and it was really gratifying when I saw the coverage on the news of the clergy talking about climate change as a moral issue.”
— Angela Deegan
“I am proud to contribute media or design that will increase awareness and involve new people in the fight against climate change. It’s helped me grow as a graphic designer to have my works seen publically and it’s helped me grow as an activist to think of imagery that will most inspire people to join us.”
“Being an activist for a volunteer organization has given me an opportunity to experience being a necessity. I have not only done several flyers for large scale events, but I also had a chance to help organize a March in the center of Balboa park and be interviewed on live radio. I got to have a taste of leadership that I wouldn’t be able to experience at a professional job for a long time. SD350 relied on me to get the job done.”
— Juliet DeAmicis
“It is vital for people young and old to come together to stand up to large corporations and government agencies and fight for humanity! We need to teach schools, colleges and at home about the current events and what can be done. One simple change done by a lot of people becomes a BIG change. A lot of big changes does create massive shifts, and this is the power of numbers. We are all in this together. We are all fighting the same battle. We just need to come together and share the same vision.”
— Lindsey Richardson
As a final note, I want to briefly add my perspective. I came to SD350 while working for a local San Diego publication, and it allowed me to meet several truly inspiring environmentalists who sacrifice greatly to benefit San Diego. Moreover, volunteering showed me that every member had a skill or perspective to bring to the table, and that one can contribute in myriad ways. I have written this column for much of the past year while based in Central America, which goes to show that if you’re willing to help, no matter your circumstance, environmental organizations like SanDiego350 will be happy to have it. Visit us at sandiego350.org to donate, sign up, read our blog, watch videos, explore volunteer opportunities, and learn about recent or upcoming events.
Hutton Marshall is a journalist and a volunteer with SanDiego350. He studied at San Diego State University, where he served as managing editor of The Daily Aztec, SDSU’s student newspaper. After graduation, he edited and reported for multiple local publications in San Diego, including San Diego Uptown News. He is an incoming student at the University of Virginia School of Law.