Soul Articles

Becoming effective in the climate crisis

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How to maintain our enthusiasm for a better future and a healthy planet.

"We are leaving a trail of devastation through the earth with our daily lives, and we are not taking care of it there yet..." - German Federal Minister of Economics, Robert Habeck, 2022, in an interview on the TV show Markus Lanz [1].

A friend from Mexico sent me a New York Times article Sunday night saying, "This is happening here right now." It's about extreme drought, dry taps, and angry crowds taking a government-hired truck driver hostage because their neighborhood isn't getting enough water [2]. Europe, meanwhile, is setting a new negative record [3] with about 660,000 hectares of forest burned in 2022. 

But how can we take care of this? Since we find many young environmental activists caught between burnout and disillusionment, the question should be: "How do I maintain my effectiveness and enthusiasm for a better future and a healthy planet in the long run?"

Our circle of influence

Sometimes it's also good to remind each other how much we're already doing. Every time we choose to bike, eat a meatless meal, go green on electricity, or decide against a short-haul flight, we are helping to keep our footprint on the planet smaller. We can make a big difference with personal action, especially in the world’s rich countries. It is motivating to start with the easiest things for us and build on small successes. The talk show quote at the beginning of this article appropriately goes on to say, "Whatever we do has consequences. We're not angels, but we can try, step by step, to make the consequences a little less bad." Keeping in mind that we do not aspire to become angels, but first only to mitigate the "trail of devastation" behind us, is realistic and thus saves us from overwhelm and unnecessary stress [6]. 

Being effective together

Good news: Although it may feel like it sometimes, we are never alone on this path. Allying with others, sharing knowledge, and motivation, fighting, celebrating, and grieving together can create in us a sense of belonging and shared agency. Billions of people right now share the mission to change our future for the better. Fridays for Future, Effective Altruism, GiveWell, Ashoka, Pioneers of Change, and the Union of Concerned Scientists are just a handful of examples of a movement that is rapidly gaining more people and influence. If you are interested in more successes in politics, business, and civil society, skim through a book by Rudger Bregmann (such as "Utopia for Realists") or "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling et al.

Which initiative just sparks your curiosity or speaks to your heart? For some of us, regular donations (for example, through GiveWell [7]) feels like the appropriate form of co-creation, while others prefer to get involved in political or regional groups. For a challenge this big, our world needs collective engagement.

Facing the crisis holistically

The ecological crisis is complex and, according to MIT professor Otto C. Scharmer, on par with a social and a spiritual crisis (see "three divides" [8]). If you are now thinking, "Oh no, please, not more crises!": Yes, on the one hand, this perspective increases the scope of the crisis(es), but on the other hand, it also increases the span of our possibilities to become a part of the restoration – especially where direct action is denied or thwarted. Grieving for loss, listening to one another with open hearts, being generous, or offering prayers and intercessions to the world heals the wounds of a crisis that, according to Scharmer, Ph.D., we need to look at even more holistically than we have so far. In summary, it's about reconnecting with who we are: ecologically, socially, and spiritually. Appreciating both our highest potential, as well as our limitations, we, as a planet, step into a new, unknown future.

In an essay, the natural philosopher Andreas Weber writes [9]: "We are not sawing off the branch we are sitting on – we are sawing off the branch that we are". 

The matter of climate justice

In the rich countries of this world, our enormous privileges are currently becoming more and more visible. Not only climatically are poorer regions often more vulnerable. Scarcer resources also tend to mean less resilience in dealing with environmental damage. Yet, how power and money are distributed in the world today has much to do with dark chapters in world history. As rich countries are increasingly confronted with the consequences of these chapters, for example, through increasing migration, a quiet voice of shame is also growing louder in many people. Giving space to shame about these ethical transgressions is... stark. Really! In other words, challenging and advisable in doses. Nonetheless, just addressing collective wounds is an essential contribution to a healthy future on our planet. If this kind of work interests you, I recommend the book by our Soulchat Supervisor, Thomas Hübl, "Healing Collective Trauma" [10].

Inviting lightness

No matter what contribution we choose to make, staying playful is key to long-term success. Enthusiasm and lightness emerge when we get in touch with our potential. So the question to you in closing is, "What gives you the most hope, joy, or enthusiasm related to the topic?" Investing your energy at this point and playfully coming into action is probably precisely what the world needs from you. If I was asked to sum up this article in one sentence, it would go something like this: Trust it is possible to have a meaningful impact, whatever your way of contributing may be. Glad you are part of this journey together! 

Author: Joseph Ronicke


[1] Habeck, R. (2022, April 1). Ukraine-Krieg: Habeck Kritisiert Doppelmoral. ZDF. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[2] Rodriguez, C., Abi-Habib, M., & Avelar, B. (2022, August 3). Mexico's cruel drought: 'here you have to chase the water'. The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[3] Deutsche Welle. (2022, August 14). Europe set for record wildfire land loss in 2022 – DW – 08/14/2022. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[4] Greenpeace. (2022, March 31). 10 Tipps für mehr Klimaschutz im Alltag. Greenpeace Germany. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[5] NABU. (n.d.). 77 Klimaschutz-Tipps. NABU Deutschland. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[6] Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York: McGraw Hill.

[7] GiveWell. (2022). GiveWell Website. GiveWell Charity Research. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[8] Scharmer, C. O. (2018). The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications. BK, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., a BK Business book. 

[9] Weber, A. (2018, November 23). Zurück zur beseelten Natur - Plädoyer für einen Paradigmenwechsel. SWR Wissen. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from 

[10] Hübl, T., & Lehner, J. (2021). Kollektives Trauma heilen: Persönliche und globale Krisen verstehen und als Chance nutzen. Irisiana.