Social Media and Climate Change Activism
By Ibrahim Panji Indra
Two degree celsius increase of global temperature is a limit that we should not exceed. It is a target that world leaders and scientists have agreed upon. But to me, it is more than just a limit or a target. Two degree celsius should be translated as a call for an ambitious change. A change that does not rely solely on actions of world leaders to happen, but instead relies heavily on supports and actions at a more individual level.
Climate change is arguably the biggest threat of our generation. The impacts of climate change get worse from day to day. Islands are drowning, food and water become more scarce, people are homeless (or should I say island-less?), forest fires are far more severe and frequent, and heat waves have turned deadly. Unfortunately, we have done so little to mitigate it.
World leaders, despite their pledges, have been criticised for being too lenient toward polluters and loggers who are either individuals or companies. This is not surprising because, firstly, it is understandably difficult to strike a proper balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability. Secondly, there is a lack of political pressure on world leaders to act swiftly against climate change. I find the latter issue more fundamental because only when there is an adequate political pressure that the world leaders will start to put the environment as their top priority.
The least and at the most powerful act we can do as a non-decision maker is to pressure politicians through social media. That includes making a moving simple tweet, posting pictures that speak volumes like what photojournalists do, until writing an insightful blogpost. There may not be an instant change, but a continuous and persistent work will surely result in a massive and unified voice of the people that is politically influential.
The reason why there has not been any big pressure put on the world leaders to act against climate change is partly because the people themselves are not yet aware of the issue. Social media can also deal with that problem. If formal education fails, social media can raise public awareness and educate people about the urgency of climate change informally. Social media also becomes a channel for climate activists to deal with climate change skepticism and to debunk many dangerous rumours saying that climate change is not happening or is not human-induced.
Many underestimate the ability of social media to create political change. But history has proven the otherwise. Impeachment of corrupt leaders have been carried out through social media. I don’t see any reason why we can not pressure leaders to act against climate change through social media the same way we impeach leaders.