As I sat in a room full of college student-body presidents and campus leaders a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but reflect on what I was doing with my free time in college. The answer: not much! I was admittedly lazy in college, opting for video games and pickup basketball with friends instead of joining one of the hundreds of campus groups my school offered. Yet as I look back at my college days, it’s not necessarily with regret for not joining a group or society, but rather that I was not protecting the environment- my passion- with even the simplest day-to-day, don’t-think-about-it-twice actions.
Some people like to call these kinds of actions slacktivism, which comes with a somewhat negative connotation. I like to think of it as letting your passion root and manifest itself throughout the millions of seemingly trivial actions you take every day; it may seem strange to think about, but you can actually make a difference this way.
So maybe I didn’t join a network of environmental defenders in college—and that's okay, I think. What bothers me is that I didn’t even consider to turn off the lights when I was leaving my room—something that requires such minimal effort and makes a much bigger impact than you might think.
Slacktivism is great, and a valuable tool for any serious climate change advocate. What's the purpose in attending a climate rally and chaining myself to a tree (not recommended!), if I don’t even bother to recycle? Why would someone care about the “Mother Earth is Queen Bey” pin on my backpack (not a real pin!), if I’m not shortening my showers by a few minutes. The list goes on, but the case is simple: we make the biggest impact not just with big actions, but by allowing our passions and our causes to influence every action we take.
What inspires me so much about Defend Our Future is the genuine and logical perspective it takes on confronting climate change. We know not everyone has the time to organize a climate rally or build a self-sustaining plumbing system. Instead, we’ve decided to challenge people to take actions both big and small that will ultimately leave an enormous imprint with their collective might. So we cooked up some challenges that will let you get your slacktivism on. Seriously, they’re super simple and they make a difference. Some might call it slacktivism, but I call it realistic.
As for my favorite slacktivity, it’s the one you’ve been subjected to for the last 400 words and the one that I think you should consider even before buying some high-efficiency lightbulbs: speak up. Let people know climate change is real, let people know you care, and let people know that they can truly make an impact with just the slightest change in their habits. There’s a lot of doom and gloom around climate change these days, but when we start to talk about how we’re all done for… well, honestly, then it’s hard to even see the point in riding your bike to work. Instead, let your family and friends know that climate change can be conquered if we just do the right things. So speak up and speak up positively.
If we all slack off together, maybe we can save the planet.
Keith Zukowski is the Digital Director and Advocacy Coordinator for Defend Our Future.