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Societal Problems Require Societal Solutions

Author: Kate Bulinski, Board Member, Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light

When ask students in my introductory classes about what it means or what it looks like to be sustainable, the suggestions that come to their minds invariably begin with individual direct actions, like conserving water, conserving electricity, eating less meat, reducing single use plastics, and yes, recycling.

I am heartened that college students have internalized responsible environmental choices in ways that were not as common 20+ years ago when I was in college. We know much more now than we did even a few decades ago about how our personal actions affect our world and that represents some progress.

All that said, what I think is lost in this common narrative of personal responsibility is that being environmentally conscious doesn’t and shouldn’t end with your own personal habits. The causes and solutions surrounding climate change are more directly a product of larger entities like towns and cities, states, countries, and corporations. The responsibility of a problem as large as climate change is one that was created by society and must be fixed by society.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t conserve water and electricity, eat lower on the food chain or avoid single-use plastics. We should and must do those things and try to encourage others to do them as well. What we must all ALSO do is work collectively for change as there is power in community to hold decision-makers accountable for the environmental impacts of much larger societal structures than that of an individual household.

Think about the social and professional groups in which you belong. Family, friend groups, workplaces, volunteer organizations and faith communities. These are all places where people can work together to achieve much more than an individual might on their own.

Some examples of what organizing for environmental action can look like:

  • Organize a new “green team” within one of your organizations to provide environmental leadership

  • Connect existing environmental leaders to “green teams” within other faith communities to share resources and ideas

  • Host a public lecture or film screening educating groups around environmental care

  • Fundraise to put solar panels on the roof of a church or community building

  • Perform energy audits on homes and community buildings to reduce energy consumption

  • Mobilize a letter writing or petition campaign for supporting green energy or other initiatives

Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light can provide the technical and professional support so that you and your faith communities take on all of these actions.

What would you like your faith community to achieve this year?

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