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  • Writer's pictureHeather Sherman

We Can All #ACTNOW to Combat Climate Change

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

17 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg said it best at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is,” she told a packed crowd of the world’s top economists and financial experts.

Greta and many other young, passionate climate activists who are protesting a lack of action on climate change, are sounding the alarm on what they - and many others - view as an existential crisis that impacts all of us.

According to the Washington Post, the world has 'just over a decade to get climate change 'under control’ before many of the changes in our earth become irreversible.

Time is running out.

So, for today’s @50daysofkindness challenge, we wanted to better understand how we, as a family, can learn ways to become kinder to the environment and help combat climate change. We decided to reach out to someone who is equally passionate about the environment, and about inspiring young minds.

For almost 10 years, Canadian expat Laura Fuller has been working for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and currently heads communications for North America out of the regional office in Washington, D.C.

Laura’s job is to develop highly effective and engaging communications, to raise awareness and inspire action, in response to the biggest environmental issues and concerns facing us today.

“I am so proud to work for an international organization that puts people and the planet first,” says Laura. “The mission of UNEP is ‘to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.’ I live and breathe that every day.”

At UNEP, Laura has had the opportunity to meet with global and North American environmental leaders and advocates, and to work with influencers and celebrities who support the cause. UNEP’s Goodwill Ambassadors for North America include actors Aidan Gallagher and Adrian Grenier; and musicians Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band.

Disclaimer alert! Laura is also our cousin (we’re so proud :).

Read our Q&A with Laura below and learn more about the United Nations Environment Programme here.

Laura, why should we all be concerned about the environment?

Everyone who lives on planet earth should be concerned about the state of the planet today. We are facing a crisis of unprecedented, accelerating global warming. Because of the energy sources we use to power our cars, lives and cities, those exhaust fumes and emissions have now caused a global temperature rise of 1.1 degree Celsius.

If you think that doesn’t sound too serious, a 1.5C degree rise will mean we’ll lose over 70% of coral reefs by the end of the century and if the temperature rise climbs to 2.0 degrees, virtually all reefs will be lost forever.

It means increased sea level rise, increased frequency and likelihood of extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires. It means severe droughts and severe floods that will threaten global food security and displace masses of people.

And yet we’ve figured out solar and wind - renewable energy sources of electricity. We can protect and restore forests. We’re not looking for a solution. We just need to get started!

What can each of us do, to help?

The choices we make and the lifestyles we live have a profound impact on our planet. Everyone can take personal responsibility to reduce their carbon emissions, but also use their individual spheres of influence to help us cut in half our carbon emissions in the next 10 years (by 2030): whether that’s your family, school, friends, company or larger community. Here are some concrete steps you can take:

Educate: Learn about the environmental challenges we are facing. This can be done in so many different ways, from taking environmental courses to reading books, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, streaming documentaries, to sitting in on webinars and panel discussions. Make sure that you are getting information from trusted sources.

Advocate: Advocate and discuss these issues with the people around you, like the Sherman family! Figuring out how we can address environmental challenges can be daunting but talking it out with the people in your life helps you to unpack your thoughts and feelings, while also discovering ways to take action and share ideas. It also helps to spread awareness and build collective action. 

Act: Consider your daily behaviours and look for ways that you can reduce your environmental footprint (taking shorter showers, using public transport or walking/biking, reducing meat consumption, limiting electricity use, etc.) . The UN #ActNow campaign provides some simple actions that you can take to make a difference:

  • Use your purchasing power to make sustainable choices where you can (food, appliances, clothes, single-use plastic alternatives, etc.)

  • Factor in the environment when and where you invest your money

  • Limit the amount of materials you buy and consume and try to reuse or thrift whenever you can

  • Get involved with local environmental organizations, clubs, or movements. People are taking action now all around the world - even virtually!

How can young people truly make a difference?

Just by learning and connecting with nature and spending time in your local environment, kids can be made aware of the importance of biodiversity and share what they have discovered. Young people are leading the charge to get organizations and governments to make changes to protect the future of the planet. They extoll being stewards of the earth through behaviour choices and taking care of the earth in simple ways, like not throwing trash on the ground, limiting resource use, etc.

Younger people can get involved locally which is also a great way to learn, whether it is joining environmental clubs at school or participating in local clean-ups that use citizen science to help collect data, such as with the Litterati community.

There is also a cool new app, called ‘AWORLD’ (in support of the UN’s ACTNOW campaign) to help guide both younger and older people to be more sustainable in their everyday lives.

Where have you traveled in the world and what kind of an impact did traveling have on you, and your desire to help the environment?

I have been fortunate to travel to over 65 countries for work and leisure. A number of my trips have been to volunteer in areas that are less fortunate than we are in North America. I have helped to build sustainable communities in Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. My job has also afforded me the opportunity to work with international and subnational governments to help implement energy efficiency projects to empower communities and to improve the lives of the people living in them.

Who are the most inspirational environmental advocates & influencers, that we should all be paying attention to?

There are so many people doing such important work right now. Beside the scientists and international organizations, there are activists all over the world, and here in North America, working hard to make their voices heard to bring attention to the climate crisis. Youth movements like Fridays for Future and the Future Coalition are led by young people, for young people. There is important environmental justice work being done by people like Dr. Robert Bullard and organizations like the Hip Hop Caucus. UNEP is also fortunate to work with amazing influencers who can reach new audiences and spread awareness like: Aidan Gallagher, Don Cheadle, Jack Johnson, the Dave Matthews Band and Adrian Grenier.

Are you optimistic about the future? Why?

I am definitely optimistic! We are at one of the most complex moments in history, and the health of our environment and what’s at stake is more in the public conscience than ever before. The science is definitive and gives us a limited window of opportunity to steer humanity towards sustainability. With this challenge, we have seen the astonishing human capacity for innovation and imagination towards finding solutions. This is a moment in history where we have all had to come together to fight for our future - governments, the private sector, civil society, and individuals. We can’t achieve peace and prosperity without safeguarding the planet and it is heartening to see how the whole world is rising together for our common future.

Please follow UNEP on social media at: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram


(TIME Magazine)

(Times of Israel)

(Hannah Alper’s blog)

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