Acting away worry and guilt

View of the Bossons Glacier above Chamonix Mont Blanc

It’s 8am Monday morning. 8th October. The headlines of the IPCC’s latest stark report on the state of climate change are running through my head, while the sound of rocks falling and ice cracking are ringing through my ears. As I sit and gaze out at the tongue of the mighty Bossons Glacier, having run up here to digest the news and clear my head, tears well in my eyes.

What are we doing to this beautiful planet of ours? Why is it taking so long for everyone to wake up and act?

It’s been a funny old year. In many respects, it’s been a hugely positive one for the world of climate action, for Do Nation, and for myself. Public appetite – and demand – for action has reached record levels and low-carbon businesses are booming. Partly as a result of this, Do Nation is doing better than ever – both in terms of finance and impact. And all while I’m able to call this stunning valley home.

So I am largely filled with hope and optimism. But that positivity has been dampened by two things: growing worry, and growing guilt. 

The worry: I don’t think I need to spell it out too much – the impacts of climate change have shown their face so clearly this year that’d it’d be hard for anyone not to be worried. From forest fires in the Arctic to droughts in the Lake District, and, closer to home, the crumbling peaks of the Mont Blanc range.* The clock is ticking, and fast. 

The guilt: I’m a hypocrite. Until I moved to Chamonix, I could quite confidently say that I was walking the talk of someone who advocates for sustainable lifestyles. Sure, I have never been perfect, but I was doing my best to reduce my impact – I rarely ate meat, I didn’t own a car, I sourced my energy from a 100% renewable provider, I bought new clothes rarely and almost always from ethical brands, and – most importantly – I flew maximum once a year (and usually not at all). 

But now, I write this from a very comfortable seat on the BA 2280 from Geneva to London City. It’s my 12th flight this year. 

Sure, I offset each flight (in fact, I triple-offset, using ClimateCare), but that doesn’t make it ok. When I took the footprint survey earlier in the year, mine came out as 2.7 – barely under the UK average. And I’m meant to be a leader in this field, inspiring others to reduce their footprint. 

These feelings of guilt and worry have almost pushed me into the same state of  helpless denial that I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to pull others out of – even with the creaking glaciers looming above my head. But today has strengthened my resolve. And so, as I sat watching the sea of ice creak on Monday morning, I made two pledges.

  1. To make this week count. If I’m going to fly, it better be worthwhile. I won’t  bore you with this week’s ridiculous schedule, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got good value-for-carbon.
  2. To Get grounded. From now on, I’m getting the train. With French train bookings now open for December, I’ve just booked my ticket back for Christmas. Sure, it’ll take three hours longer, but it’s valuable, distraction-free time that I’ll enjoy.

Knowing I’ve taken a small step in the right direction has already eased away some of the guilt, making more space for hope to grow again, and with it – the all important action and leadership that each one of us needs to show.

So if one of your habits or actions is niggling away at you, I urge you to tackle it head on. It could unlock much more change than you think. Our list of Do Actions is a great place to start.

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* Something I’ve learnt this summer is that climate change can also change the shape of something as solid as mountains. The dramatic alpine peaks are in fact held together largely by ice. As water seeps in to cracks in the rocks, it freezes and widens the cracks that bit further. When the ice melts, the rocks fall. This summer, thanks to the extreme heat, the rocks have thawed more than usual, and we’ve seen notably more rockfall as a result – with some of the regions landmarks literally crumbling away before our eyes. Few things show the powerful force of nature more clearly. 

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