Guest opinion: In the face of climate change, find hope through action |

Guest opinion: In the face of climate change, find hope through action

Karen Jackson and Mark Reynolds
Citizens' Climate Lobby

For most of us, climate change used to feel like something far removed from our everyday lives. But recently, back-to-back disasters due to climate change have brought anxiety and grief close to home.

Here in Utah we have endured record-breaking heat, lung-choking smoky air, dry withered crops and drying reservoirs. We are now in a mega drought causing some communities to put a moratorium on building and causing us to wonder about the health of our ski industry. Climate change is in the backyards of Utahns.

We’re not the only ones struggling with the impacts and tough emotions of climate disasters. In recent weeks, we’ve also seen the vibrant, much-loved cities of New Orleans and New York impacted by Hurricane Ida.

We’ve read with heartbreak about more than 60 people who lost their lives in the eastern U.S. We’ve contemplated with unease how the infrastructure of major cities has failed in the face of record precipitation. In the West, firefighters battled an orange haze to save South Lake Tahoe — a vacation spot loved by many. These frightening scenes weighed heavy on hearts across the nation.

It’s no wonder that, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, more than six in 10 Americans (63%) now believe climate change is currently affecting their local community. But sadly, a recent Yale survey found that 40% of Americans feel helpless about climate change.

When our future is threatened at this scale, how can we respond? How can we constructively counter the anxiety and grief that our world is on a disastrous path?

“In a world that seems increasingly out of control, we are desperate for hope: real hope, a hope that acknowledges the full magnitude of the challenge we face and the very imminent risk of failure,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe wrote recently in Time. “Real hope also offers a chance of a more vibrant future; a glimpse, however distant, of something better than what we have today, not worse. Where can we find such hope? We find it in action.”

Here in Utah a group of volunteers share that philosophy. We turn climate anxiety into action by advocating for federal legislation that would drastically lower emissions and stop climate change in its tracks.

Members of the of nonpartisan, grassroots organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby meet regularly with the offices of Sens. Romney and Lee and Reps. Curtis, Moore, Stewart and Owens. We work to show our elected leaders that bold action on climate change is not only needed but popular.

Since August, we have joined thousands of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers nationwide to help generate 54,000 emails and phone calls to the Senate urging for a price on carbon to be included in the budget reconciliation package.

Our efforts are not just a balm for our climate anxiety — they are making a real impact. In early September, news broke that the Senate Finance Committee is discussing putting a price on carbon emissions. This powerful climate solution would boost the economy, unleash affordable clean energy, save lives with better air quality and give low- and middle-income families a boost via a monthly carbon cashback check. Suddenly things seem more hopeful.

As humans, it’s natural to fear change, but our world is already changing. We can choose to allow climate change to keep happening to us, or we can choose to be part of the solution.

Grieving for what we’ve lost and fearing when the next storm or wildfire will strike are normal reactions to the time we are living through, but our actions right now can have powerful consequences.

As climate activist Greta Thunberg has stated, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

Karen Jackson is a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby who lives in Midway. Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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