How to move beyond recycling (part 1)

Stabilizing the climate requires systemic change. Here's how HEATED readers are doing their part.

The world’s bad news has been overwhelming lately. But today we have some good news. “What Can I Do? Anything,” last month’s newsletter on the urgent need for climate activism, is now officially the most popular article in HEATED’s two-year history. More than 100,000 people have read climate activists’ call to action to join the fight against fossil fuels and for a livable future.

The article’s success indicates more than just a good headline. It indicates a shift in this community’s needs. Readers are increasingly worn out by information about the world’s biggest problems, and crave more information about how to fix them. And they are particularly energized by information about solutions that go beyond recycling, or otherwise reducing their personal carbon footprints. (Which, by the way, is still a great thing to do).

We want to keep that momentum going. At the bottom of last month’s article, we invited HEATED readers to share in the comments how they are contributing to system change, and received 140 responses. Today, we’re re-publishing some of those reader suggestions, along with more information about their causes and how to join.

The list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it is diverse. Suggestions range from physical to digital; from time-consuming to efficient; from hyper-specific to broad; from cheap to free. These suggestions also include a range of causes, from divestment to education to legislative action. Each selection has been vetted to the extent that they are real attempts to tackle climate change on a systemic level. Other than that, HEATED takes no position on them.

If you don’t see an action listed below that speaks to you personally, don’t worry. We plan to make this a semi-regular feature—perhaps once a month or so—and will include different causes and approaches every time. If you commented last time and don’t see your suggestion listed, just comment again, and make a note that you commented the first time. Anyone else who would like their favorite group or project included in the next iteration of this e-mail should leave a comment, too.

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Also: If you wind up doing any of these things, please let us know. You can do that either in the comments, or by sending an e-mail to

Small ways to change the system (part 1)

“You don’t need to quit your job and become a climate activist. With enough people, one little thing every week, even a tweet, can make a huge difference.” —Genevieve Gunther, founder of End Climate Silence.

—Play a board game to boost climate education

Public school education about climate change is extremely lacking in America, thanks in part to the fossil fuel industry. But if more kids could get a better climate education, research shows it could make a huge dent in carbon emissions by the year 2050.

The Climate Fresk is one way activists are trying to do that. It’s a 42-card game designed to help students understand IPCC reports and climate solutions by decarbonizing New York City. “Your team of 4-6 must work together to balance your budget, your grid stability, and your public opinion to keep the lights on, win elections, overcome climate impacts, and build 16 gigawatts of clean power for the city, reader Laure says. The creators’ goal is to make it entirely free so all 24,000 public high schools in the U.S. can have access to it.

How to help: You can play during an online or in-person workshop, train to become a facilitator, become a member or donate. The game is available online, but requires a third party app to play.

—Become a mineral rights holder to annoy frackers

Methane, the largest component of natural gas, is a huge climate problem. But the latest IPCC report said that “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane emissions can help stave off some of the worst climate impacts.

All the Way to Hell, an activist art project in Oklahoma, targets the main cause of the world’s methane spike: fracking. The project attempts to make it extremely inconvenient and expensive for fracking companies to operate by “giving away mineral rights in Oklahoma to as many people as possible,” writes reader/project founder Eliza Evans. “Because it costs developers just as much to acquire 500 acres as it does small properties—they have to track down owners, negotiate leases, and file documents with the county clerk—this aggressive fragmentation of the property will inhibit fossil fuel interest in it,” the project’s website reads.

How to help: Simply sign up here with your name and address, and you’ll become an owner of a small fraction of mineral rights purchased by All the Way to Hell. Important: you have to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to participate.

—Divest your personal assets from fossil fuels

The world’s foremost climate science body and its leading energy organization agree: new fossil fuel development is fueling climate destruction. But you may be unknowingly helping to fund new fossil development if you bank with one of the world’s 60 largest commercial and investment banks. Combined, they have poured a combined $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels from 2016–2020.

How to help: “I've moved my money to a bank that exclusively loans money only to climate-positive endeavors, and never to fossil fuels,” says reader Austin Hinkel.I personally use Ando, but others exist as well like Aspiration.” Another option is Atmos bank, or your local credit union. A list of socially responsible banks and investment firms can be found here. (Thanks to reader Christine Mania for linking).

—Jam the calendars of bank executives who profit from pollution

Many banks that publicly claim to be climate champions are funding controversial, high-polluting fossil fuel projects. One those projects is the Line 3 pipeline, which would add 50 new coal plants’ worth of carbon emissions to the atmosphere every year for the next three to five decades if completed.

How to help: Reader Vanessa Warheit suggests checking out Stop the Money Pipeline, which has many digital options for pressuring the banks funding Line 3. The most creative, though, is their calendar-jamming campaign. “We’re filling the calendars of top executives at Union Bank, Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Barclays, Citi and HSBC, with hundreds of invitations to remind them to break up with Enbridge and defund Line 3,” it reads. Learn more here.

—Join the urgent frontline fight against Line 3

Of all the fights over new fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S., the Line 3 pipeline may be the most urgent. The pipeline’s construction is approaching completion, and indigenous water protectors are urging people to join them in a last stand in Northern Minnesota.

“We are in a state of emergency,” said Chase Iron Eyes of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “Our children are born into a state of impending doom. They know it in their hearts and their souls that the world is ending… if we give in. If we give up. If we let the Army Corps of Engineers win. If we let Enbridge win.”

How to help: Fill out this form or check out this on-ramp doc if you're interested in joining or supporting frontline direct actions, or staying at resistance camps in Minnesota. You can also donate directly to the camps, or to the legal fund defending protestors and challenging the project.

—Donate one hour per week of your time to policy change

If you’re passionate about a wide range of policy action but don’t know where to start to get involved, reader Twila Moon recommends joining Climate Changemakers, a community that dedicates one hour a week to “high-impact political actions.”

“They do all the research and prep and I only need to show up for an Hour of Action,” she says. “Have contacted representatives and friends/neighbors, had a letter to the editor published, made phone calls, donated. There are always multiple action options and it feel so good to DO SOMETHING.”

How to help: Reader Madeline Dyke is the co-founder of the group. “All volunteers have to do is show up,” she says. Learn more here.

—Help secure protection for climate-displaced refugees

The latest IPCC report made it clear that we need all hands on deck to prevent further climate destabilization. But we also need some hands to help the people affected by destabilization that has already occurred.

Reader Amali Tower is working to secure international protections for people who have been physically displaced by climate impacts. “At present, people displaced across borders are not protected under international law, but we are making a case for why that needs to change,” she says. Her organization Climate Refugees is “doing this work alone, with no institutional support, and volunteer-run, but our focus and dedication is empowered by a peoples movement!”

How to help: Tower invites people to sign up for updates on a new digital advocacy campaign called Frontlines, and follow her group on Twitter. The Environmental Justice Foundation also has a petition for EU leaders to give climate refugees recognized legal protection.

—Re-train your brain to work for a better future

While some people work to dismantle the fossil fueled system causing climate change, others will have to work to create a more sustainable system in its place. If you are more energized by the idea of building things up rather than tearing things down, reader Sarah Patterson has helped start an educational program called Common Earth. The program “equips those concerned about the climate crisis with a profound and strategic understanding of how to create successful environmental interventions.”

How to help: Sessions are twice a week for eight weeks; the next ones start in late September. Apply here.

—Care for people doing climate work you value

“There is always someone needed to make the cups of tea,” Reader Tolmeia Gregory lovingly notes. “We need caregiver roles in movement spaces, we need people to ensure the plates get cleaned at the end of meetings, we need people to bake the vegan flapjacks so protestors are well fed.”

How to help: Find a local group or cause you feel passionate about. Send them an e-mail asking if they would like some food.

More ways HEATED readers are making a difference

  • “Last year I wrote 15 articles for my local paper.” —Scott Christiansen

  • “I donate my time to the all-volunteer non profit Earth Hero app that helps make it easier for people to act on the climate crisis.” —Ben

  • “I live in the Hudson Valley and have joined the campaign against Danskammer Plant.” —Christine Arroyo

  • “I’m with Calgary Climate Hub to move the City Council to actually act on beautiful climate policy.” —Jim McPhail

  • “I’m the organizer of an ongoing staff pension fossil fuel divestment campaign at a major NYC private hospital system where I work as a surgical technician in the OR.” —Don

  • “I've been shifting my perspective from 'do more, go more' to 'slow down, deeply care for myself and others.' Working on self-love and self-respect has helped me be a more stable person and better parent, which feels really important.” -Maia

Bonus action item: send pets to Fish

As the official mascot of this newsletter, he deserves them. Comment “please pet fish” and I will ensure he gets your pet.

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