What should Ian do with his life?

He wants advice on what an individual can do to help humanity now

A 25-year-old reader of ClimateProgress is at a turning point in his life, and he is asking CP readers for advice.

He posted the comment below in the Open Thread here, inspiring a few good responses, but I wanted more people to see this, so I’m pulling it up into a separate post.

UPDATE:  Ian provides more background — and a big thank you to readers — in the comments below here.  He has a degree in film production.

Hey everyone,

My name is Ian and I’ve posted on CP a few times so maybe some of you will recognize me. Since its an open thread I’ll throw in my personal dilemma and hopefully its not too off-topic. I may disagree with some people here, but I trust all of you. I think we’re all deeply concerned and perhaps scared about our collective future.

I’m at a crossroads in my life and I don’t know what to do. It has taken me a while to fully accept the reality of our world and our ecological crises. But I think I get it now. Human beings have been destroying the environment for a long time and we are showing no signs of stopping until we reach a point of collapse. Most human beings in the world have little to no understanding of the situation we’re in. Even a stereotypical liberal-type may understand and accept the reality of climate change but has no understanding of the urgency required to address it or the underlying (insane) economic system driving it and many other modes of environmental destruction. Its all really, really, really sad and heartbreaking.

So, I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m 25 and I had a lot of goals and dreams I wanted to chase but I’ve now given up on them because I realized our civilization is imploding. As Joe (and many others) have said numerous times, it is our moral responsibility to act. I want to do something significant and daring. I tend to lean toward acts of high risk for some reason but its something I’ve done throughout my life and I’m uncomfortable doing things people expect. I am not well suited to canvass or make phone calls working for an environmental organization because I think these actions are ineffective though important in their own way. I’m also thoroughly unsatisfied with improving my personal sustainability. Again, reducing one’s carbon footprint is essential, but will ultimately do nothing to stop our economic engine from burning up everything.

So, I’ve posed this question in different forms here on CP, but what do you guys think I should do? I’m thinking I could chain myself to the White House lawn every day for a year and hope someone from the Administration will talk to me. But thats probably pretty stupid because I’ll just go to jail many times and no one in a position of power will notice anyway. Or I could corner Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow and make them understand what is going on and convince them to only do shows about climate. Also totally unrealistic but maybe its worth a shot just to say I tried. Or I could find the CEO of ExxonMobil and somehow corner him and ask him why he’s so hell-bent on trashing our planet. Also pretty unrealistic. Or I could move to Oklahoma and run for the House of Representatives against any of their current Reps. on a platform of addressing peak oil and climate change. There’s no way I’d win or even be taken seriously but maybe I could shake things up a little and get some publicity.

I know all those ideas probably sound crazy but I would definitely be willing to do any or all of them. The stakes are just too high and I can’t live my life feeling like I’m doing nothing. I’m not at all expecting to go out there and completely change the world. No way that will happen but maybe there is some small part I can play in doing SOMETHING to help our planet.

Also, I have many people in my life that love me and care about me and I’m afraid for their future. I feel I owe it to them to help do SOMETHING.

What do you guys think I should do? Any suggestions? There isn’t a lot of time left, unfortunately.

Thanks everyone.


Ian, I don’t recommend people waste time trying to persuade the unpersuadable.  I also think that it is a mistake to shoulder the burden of the false belief that one person can, over a short period of time, make a huge difference.  That very rarely happens and when it does happen it’s usually because that individual has been planning for a long time.

It is important to choose a course of action that is itself sustainable.  You don’t help anybody if you burn out.  The anti-science, pro-pollution extremists work hard to thwart near-term action, knowing that it will disillusion idealists.  Don’t let them succeed at that.

You are 25 and have your whole life ahead of you, so if you want to do something significant and daring, I suggest you start by developing a strategic plan that builds on your strengths.  That’s what I did a few years ago, which is how I ended up blogging.

But let’s here what CP readers think.  Many of them have tackled the same tough questions you have.

UPDATE:  The NYT‘s Andy Revkin has offered his thoughts in a comment below and a blog post here.  In a weird two-degrees-of-separation moment, the young Pakistani Revkin quotes was an exchange student at Middletown High School, which is where I went to school!

145 Responses to What should Ian do with his life?

  1. Athena says:

    Ian and CP,

    Its a little unnerving how much your situation is the same as mine. I’m 23 and am trying desperately to get a job within the clean energy field. The crazy dream is to skyrocket through the corporate ladder and one day end up in a position of power where I can make radical changes. Failing that I’ll most likely end up becoming a journalist in order to help incite conversation about these issues.

    But in actuality, I’m really scared. As CP said, we’ve got the rest of our lives ahead of us and were going to spend a large majority of it watching others destroy the world we live in. Its enough to make me want to buy a plot of land, go off grid and live out the rest of my days in a hobbit house with my own chickens and vegetables. But we’re young and we’re slowly becoming the people in charge. I think the best way to go about it is to make sure that when the time comes around, your in as high a position as possible to make the most change.

    Go get them Ian and the rest of my fellow young people!

  2. Brigid says:

    I’m at a similar point in my life (I’ll turn 24 in a month) and have struggled with similar questions and misgivings about how I can make a difference. I think Joe’s advice is very good – probably the best thing one person can do is to craft a lifetime of making a difference. I’ve simply decided to make saving civilization (by making it more sustainable) my vocation. I don’t know what that will entail at every turn, and I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing towards that end in 10 years. For now, I’m working as an intern with an environmental research organization.

    This doesn’t give you a specific answer of what project you should tackle immediately. But if you decide to dedicate your life to this problem, then the answer of what to do next has to do with your abilities and interests. What particular solution to our environmental problems are you most interested in? What skills do you have that can be applied to working towards that solution? And what resources and opportunities are available to you in your community or current circumstances?

    When I go to work everyday, I don’t do really high-profile or high-risk things like you’re talking about. But I do know that I’m doing something important, and that I’m effective at it because I’m applying my strengths to the problem. And I’m also learning, everyday, more about the problems we face, the solutions available to us, and how I can contribute most effectively. What I learn doing what I’m doing today informs the decisions I will make in the future about how I can best contribute.

  3. Tyrone G. says:


    I understand this exact same feeling…it is one very familiar to me. Ever since college, I get attacks every so often, and they get me down…but only temporarily. The recovery time gets shorter every time, but the impact is always the same–it hurts like hell. The world is basically addicted to or dependent on particular economic systems and lifestyles, and it is hard to change systems of that scale as one individual. Personal change is great, but when you’re surrounded by addicts, it’s hard to stay the course and remain rational and sane. One day at a time. Know that you are not alone; there are many of us that feel the same way you do. Just keep walking, doing what you feel is important. I’m reminded of Gandhi’s quote: “What you do in life is insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

    That leads to this question: At your core, what is it you really want to do? Your reaching out to the community to ask what you “should” do might help you find out what it is you really want to do. In an interesting way, you already know the answer, though it might take you years (or a lifetime) to realize it. Keep up the search.

    All best,

  4. Debra says:

    I feel for you. I myself feel the same way but I am 46! I think the world needs honest concerned leaders that will not give into the corruption. Yet it seems those of that standing in the past have been assassinated. An honest reporting website with “real” investigative reporting would help. I will be interested in see what comments other people post.

  5. Ian, one general constellation of things you might consider is putting together the sorts of skill & educational sets that will make you a desirable hire in the non-profit sector. (These same sets, interestingly enough, will also be of interest in government service jobs.) There are some obvious ones (Law) but many others as well. You can get something of an idea of the sorts of jobs that are out there over at the web site; the URL below will take you directly to the advanced search page.

    One of the first steps will also involve picking up internships. This can be a rather expensive hobby, since those “jobs” generally do not come with any kind of pay or stipend. But you will come away with real work experience which is at least as important as your basic educational background.

    Best of luck!

  6. Leif says:

    Another commentator on CP brought this link to my attention. It to deserves renewed billing.

    Bill Rees, a Biologist with interesting insights into the human condition. ~1 hour long but interesting from stem to stern.

    This kind of information is helpful in bringing historical perspective to our efforts. I would think it would be particularly helpful to the youth. Even insights into progressive directions and tactics.

  7. John McCormick says:

    Ian, its about the rest of your life and being productive.

    Ian, you are working through the same dilemmas as are many, most, maybe all of us who contribute on CP.

    What strikes me is your passion and writing ability and you are of the age when your life plans should be kicking into high gear. I suspect many your age who are literate and caring are suffering the same conflicts. Move ahead as if nothing is happening out there (the Wall Street path) or fold your hand and leave the table.

    So, articulating your conflict to your age group will have real value because you’ll be sharing real conflicts and know you are not alone.

    Ian, we are in your boat as well even if some of us are a bit older and on the downside of our life plan.

    A word of caution: don’t trade your credibility for a moment of passionate anger. Think of the long term struggle. It won’t be won with outbursts as much as hard work and strategic thinking.

    Keep in touch with your friends here at CP and think through how to give the 25ers a stronger voice. Write and be read. That’s a good place for you right now. Find other blogs. Create one. Keep sharing your concerns, conflicts. Get invited to schools in your region to address students formally or informally. Small steps but you will be in the game where we need persons such as yourself.

    Keep a cool head. watch for real opportunities to make a difference.

    One day you will be the voice many want to be because you have youth on your side and more skin in the game than many AGW believers.

    Keep in touch and share your ideas!

    John McCormick

  8. effem says:

    My personal belief is that we will get nowhere on climate unless we work to fix the economic, political, and corporate system.

    With wealth inequality at record levels, it is no surprise that paying more for power is simply a non-starter. The bottom 20% of our country can simply not shoulder higher costs for daily living expenses now that we have concentrated most of the wealth among the top 1%. Resistance will continue to be stiff until this changes.

    As for politics, the two major parties have very effectively worked to enrich themselves and exclude fresh voices. Two parties are an illusion – it is really one party with just enough disagreement to stage a nice show and keep the public from wondering if there are better alternatives. Both parties are bought off by corporate interests and the top 1% (who finance campaigns). No creative solutions will ever come out of Washington until we move past the two party system.

    As for the corporate structure, I see most industries now dominated by groups of large companies representing cartels. These cartels ensure that revolutionary change is slow to happen. The cartels also protect their own very high margins – thus increasing the price of everything. A good example is public infrastructure. Evey wonder why we have trouble improving our infrastructure? One large reason is that the return on every dollar spent of infrastructure spent has plummeted over the past 30 years. Projects are now much more expensive – it is no wonder we have trouble justifying them. The same will happen to alternative energy – it will become dominated by large interests seeking to enrich their CEOs. This will keep the price of alternatives higher than a competitive market would suggest and slow adoption.

    So in my opinion, if you want to help with climate start by fixing society.

  9. pete best says:

    Ian, I know many people your age who as you say know nothing of the impending peril of ACC (Climate Change) and peak oil (fossil fuels in general) and they are living their lives as you would expect, they drive, fly, use natural gas to cook and heat their homes, go out, stay in hotels etc.

    First of all is the western system (capatalism) has achieved many things for us and given a lot of us very comfortable and even exciting life styles that people want to keep. Technology thrills them and they expect it to progress delivering more and better features and services. They have just become used to it and continue to want it that way.

    If you look at energy expenditure you will see the following: Driving a car is energy expensive and carbon intensive. A gallon of gasoline (petrol in the UK) equates to around 40 KWh of energy. That is Kilowatt Hour. So in the USA the average car does around 22 MPG (32 is Europe) which is very low and very destructure overall. The average US citizen drives 12,000 per annum (9000 in the UK). Some cars do 60 MPG here in Europe and Hybrids and electric cars more than that if driven carefully. So if you ar going to drive get a energy efficient vehicle. Better still ride a bike at times and/or use public transport.

    Heating a home comes next. Depending on where you live in the USA (due to the average termperature) is hwo much gas you will use to heat your home or oil I would presume. Heating air to keep warm is quite expensive energy wise so get a smaller home and make sure its thermally efficient to reduce war air leaking out etc.

    After that comes electricity usage. 5000 KWH a year is not unsual so buy smaller fridges and freezers, make sure your TV is either not on much or its not massive and inefficient etc. The same goes for everything else you use.

    So my advice to you is to look at your own existance and see if you can measure and/or work out your energy expenditure and see if you can lower it my any means possible and then write a book on it. Remember its possible to lower energy usage it just requires a lot of thought and action once you have researched it.

    Good luck.

  10. BBHY says:

    “I had a lot of goals and dreams I wanted to chase but I’ve now given up on them because I realized our civilization is imploding.”

    No, no, no! Don’t give up on your dreams. What you need to do is find a way to direct your dreams, to align them, with your new-found purpose in life.

    You must find a way to use whatever gifts God has given you to make pursue your dreams and make the world a better place. Those two things should not be mutually exclusive.

    I don’t know the details about you, but everyone has something, some unique gift, that is all their own. Find yours and learn to use it. I recommend reading some of the spiritual essays from the Dalai Lama for inspiration and guidance in deciding how to live your life. You can find them easily online, especially on Facebook.

    Good Luck to you!

  11. Mirik says:

    Again, same experiences here. Very much at that point and recognize a lot of what the other comments are saying.

    I have no real education, though I am bright. Since a few years I have been devouring books on all subjects of science. Psychology, biology, physics and of course climate. This in an attempt to understand everything that haunts our world.

    I am increasingly sensitive and aware, see increasing parallels and connections and feel it has generally made me a much more balanced and knowledgeable person.

    Many days I sit depressed and not knowing what to do in the face of all the anti-intellectualism and threats of ignorant and greedy destroying our habitat for our future generations (and already have been doing for ours).

    In a way what I am confidence building. Gathering expertise and knowledge so that whatever I may end up doing, I can do it with a solid basis.

    What would be great for you to do is get yourself in a position of power through hard work in the field you think needs you most. Why not politics? Why not sustainable energy? Work hard at becoming a leader. Besides that work you can be a vocal activist in the many fields you want to fight for!

    Best of luck, many people feel the same!

  12. Leif says:

    I am 69 and have been politically active since the early 60’s. The Kennedy assassination burned into my memory still. Greenhouse gas implications shortly there after.

    This is no longer a battle that will take a lifetime for you, IMO. Currently I look at it like the Berlin Wall. For your life time it is all you know, then POOF it is gone… A new reality. The youth of the world brought it down.

    As Bill Rees points out in his talk. Paradigm shifts do not happen because the old have an epiphany but because they die, and a new generation embraces the New Reality. You become the change you need to survive.

    Corporate America has used EVERY resource at their disposal to keep the population ignorant and the best that they have been able to recruit is the 20% Tea Party and the GOP. (They are well armed and healed but ignorant. And the best the Rich could muster). Billions of dollars have been spent in the effort. One of these days Corporate America will awaken to the reality, (many already have), that it will be less expensive to join us than fight us. Then it is all over but the shouting… Will the trigger be the innocent gunned down in Arizona yesterday? I cannot say but it will happen soon, The cat is out of the bag IMO. The bigger the effort by you and yours the faster the transformation.

    Knowledge is strength. Survival is a HUMAN RIGHT!

  13. Tom Lewis says:

    It is no longer possible to save everyone from the consequences of industrial exploitation, but it is possible to save anyone. In fact, it is a simple, if not an easy, matter. If you learn how to grow your own food and fiber, and to produce your own energy where you live, and find a sanctuary where you can do that sustainably in perpetuity, then you can be part of the evolution of the human species to a new level.

    Forget saving the world. Save yourself (and your family and community) and you will save humanity. How’s that for a dream?

  14. David Smith says:


    Create a lifestyle for yourself that others would be comfortable copying and share it with other people. People will be influenced more by what you do than by what you say. Don’t focus on “less bad”. Focus on “good”, for example using CFL instead of incandescent is less bad, while using lighting powered exclusively by renewable sources is good. Find solutions that would be acceptable to the middle class.

    People do not understand how they are going to live post fossil fuel. They are afraid because of this. The new must be shown to be acceptable while the old ways must be made obsolete.

    Act with all urgency.

    Note to others; I read this site almost every day. There is a lot of distress communicated about how any action should have been accomplished yesterday and that we could be facing major disruptions to modern life within a few years, not decades or centuries. Giving advice to a willing young person that is a version of pick a good career and don’t do anything radical defies rational thought. Though many people are working very hard on the AGW issue, right now in the USA, change is not happening at the rate necessary to guarantee our survival. There is a saying about if you want different results, don’t keep doing the same thing you were doing yesterday that didn’t work, that got us to where we are now.

    In the political arena we need fresh blood, fresh ideas. The old ones aren’t working.

    My final advice to Ian; Its completely possible that you shouldn’t ask us. Find who is being successful at accomplishing what you want to accomplish and ask them.

  15. Raul M. says:

    Even leaders like to believe.
    Be one or help one to believe
    in good for its own sake.

  16. Leland Palmer says:

    It’s a question which haunts all of us, I think.

    What is the ethical thing to do in a situation like this?

    Personally, I don’t think that individual energy savings will make much impact. To solve the problem, we have to change our technology.

    So, several things have to be done to change our technology.

    Making alternative energy cheaper than fossil fuels would essentially solve the problem, IMO, although we would still have to do something about the warming already in the system. So, there is engineering, as a field of study, one among many scientific disciplines which can make an impact on the problem.

    Another thing we have to do to change the technology is expose and somehow defeat the fossil fuel based wealth and political power which is blocking any effective action on climate. So, investigative journalism, perhaps starting your own blog like Joe has done, is also an effective choice.

    Many scientific and scholarly professions could contribute to solving the problem, as could becoming an historian specializing in the machinations of financial elites, or a lawyer attempting to secure climate justice.

    Simply posting on line about the problem is a start, and its impact should not be underestimated.

    Good for you for asking the question.

    I only hope the younger generation can do better at creating s sustainable world than what we late middle aged people have done.

    In the long run, the truth is always friendly, psychologist Carl Rodgers tells us.

    We need more truth, to solve this problem. More scientific truth, more journalistic truth, more historical truth and more legal truth, are what we need to bring the climate system back into control.

    Only by correctly diagnosing a problem, and applying the appropriate corrective action, can a feedback system be brought back into control.

    I think myself that carbon will have to be sequestered to bring the climate back into control, so you might study that.

  17. Mike Roddy says:

    To Ian and the other young posters:

    Thanks for your articulate and heartfelt outreach here. I can’t offer good advice on how to get the message out, since so many of us are frustrated at the pace of change no matter what we do. When I was your age our main concern was that nuclear war would end the species. We managed to muddle through that one (for now), but it took hard work and vision from people like Gorbachev and even Ted Turner, who famously suggested in an editorial “Let’s sit down with the Russian leaders and promise that we will never blow you up if you agree likewise”.

    We need to somehow achieve a similar honest conversation, because we’re on a road to ruin now that is just as dangerous.

    At the same time, do your best to not get depressed over global warming. Life is short, and you will be less effective if your mood is too dark. Treasure your own life and its joys.

    Three things I would suggest are:

    1. Get into a business or profession that you are proud of, and act out your concern. Examples would be energy management devices, zero net energy construction, degraded land rehabilitation, non toxic products, and so on. You’ll do more good and have more fun than by working for a green organization.

    2. To the extent that you become active, I’m going to quote Martin Litton, the old lion of the once great Sierra Club: “Everything we ever accomplished, whether it was saving the Grand Canyon from being dammed or protecting a few redwoods, we did by fighting. As soon as we began talking or negotiating in compromising language, it was as if we’d already surrendered.” I don’t know how good we are, but there’s no doubt that there is a strange kind of darkness on the other side, and treat them accordingly. If they want respect, they will have to earn it.

    3. Keep in mind that humans have some bad wiring, because we only crawled out of the caves about a hundred generations ago. That’s not enough time to develop the spiritual and cultural wisdom we will need for these challenges. Remember this if things go bad, and that it’s possible we won’t make it. Refuse to allow this to make you unhappy, because you are a blessed part of the universe. And I feel better about all of us today after reading your request. Thanks.

  18. SecularAnimist says:

    I want to thank Ian, and Joe for posting Ian’s message, and all the commenters who have offered their insights. I think that Ian’s question is one that all of us should be asking ourselves every day, regardless of our age, our realistic options for making major life changes at the moment, etc.

    Joe wrote: “You are 25 and have your whole life ahead of you, so if you want to do something significant and daring, I suggest you start by developing a strategic plan that builds on your strengths.”

    I think Joe’s advice is just as applicable to someone who is 65.

    The only advice that I would offer, somewhat in the same spirit as Joe’s, is something I read online recently, and don’t remember the source of it:

    Don’t worry about what the world needs. Find what makes you come alive, and do that, because what the world really needs is people who have come alive.

  19. Yours is a most authentic question – Since I am about 3 times your age I have to remember the fervent energy and commitment of that age. But now we learn that there will be astounding and collosal changes ahead that will be tremendously disruptive. Essentially, you will be re-inventing civilization.

    In one sense you may be very lucky that so much is actually decided for you. In that your future will be unfolding according to science principles. You will be missing the luxury of dwelling in fantasy illusion – ours was an age where mistakes were forgiven and absorbed. No more. The earth is now a dynamically changing system that will be getting reset and redefined by you…. Back in the 1960’s, we first heard the term “Spaceship Earth” – we saw the very first image of the planet as a globe in space, until then it was just a concept. People believed in a flat earth. Now your generation seems to recognize the task of evaluating, repairing and sustaining the life support systems for Spacehip Earth. A very clear mission.

    Future efforts will be diagnosis, adaption and mitigation. Adaptation is the individual effort of joining or banding together. The mitigation effort must be the full population in the sustained work to lessen the impact of futher AGW.

    At your age, the energy and vision and vitality as you design your future means that you can prevail.

    Many of us older folks know that at some time, your well-thought out actions will be decisive and ruthless. You have our full support.

  20. Leif says:

    An old sailors adage:

    “Never go to sea in a boat you would not be proud to have as your coffin.”

  21. fj3 says:

    There’s lots to be said; like, when working on extremely difficult or “impossible” problems; it can force you to become really smart; even happy; and even be of benefit to others; and, those impossible problems can often turn out to have relatively simple common sense solutions; especially when you understand the problems well enough.

    You just have to be inspired and motivated to do, think, and try to understand and what is the important stuff — one trick is to learn to “relax into the problem” and let it work itself out — all of which can be more and more amazing the deeper you get; it seems that there will have to be terrific socio-economic change and on a certain level the science and required technology may be somewhat easier but . . . , in any case:

    This comes from macro economist Jeff Sachs, Executive Director of Columbia’s Earth Institute a terribly academic environment with many shortcomings, but not a bad place to start.

    “You’re a very lucky generation because in 25 years you can end poverty and save the planet and no other generation in history has had that opportunity. So don’t miss it! It will be really rewarding and interesting. You can tell your children about it. And, the joke of it all is that it’s only a matter of focus and effort. That thing is not going to break the bank. What we’ve been doing did break the bank! But, actually helping the poor and helping the environment costs within a few percentage points of GNP. That won’t break the bank. That will actually save the world.” Jeff Sachs, Can We Save the World Economy? October 20, 2008

  22. Andy says:


    I agree with John M., “don’t trade in your credibility for a moment of passionate anger.” I’m 54, and I encourage you to remember that you have decades to compose a life that is fueled by whatever stimulates your dreams and passion. If you consider only your own outputs, you will descend into a pretty depressing place of “what good is one person’s efforts when the global problem is so large?” But in the end, each of us only can be in control of our own efforts, and these efforts will need to stimulate others to act for there to be a large scale impact.

    Many of us older climate hawks are now engaged in this fight in a manner we could not have envisioned when we were your age (you know Joe didn’t plan to be a blogger in his twenties…it didn’t exist). The same will happen to you. Events will unfold, some which we can anticipate and some which we cannot, that will generate opportunities for you to take action and make a difference. Prepare for the events you know will eventually occur, and that preparation will help you respond to the events you could not anticipate.

    In addition, remember that your generation will get its chance to lead. So much of the denial that I see is driven by the oldest generation, but they will not remain in positions of power forever (yes, they may be there too long, but only time will tell). I routinely joke with my colleagues that we all used to be research assistants and interns, but now we’re chief administrators and executive directors. One day an election will occur and you will suddenly realize, as I did, that you are older than the President-elect.

    Clearly, there will be great human suffering in the future driven by climate change, whether due directly to natural disasters or political conflict fueled altered distribution of water and food. We are not the first generation of humans to face such great conflicts and loss. For myself, I have decided that I must be committed to getting the word out now, and to helping like-minded folks pick up the pieces when things go awry in the future. Being part of the solution will generate meaning in your life, whether you are ultimately successful or not.

  23. Robert says:

    I suggest first of all that you do not let it control your emotions. You ultimately have to learn to be happy regardless of what is going on, I know it can be hard at times but the key to being successful is being able to be happy and love what you do. Bitterness does not promote change afterall.

    My advice to you is that if you really want to contribute and make a difference you should consider writing in to newspapers, join the author team at skepticalscience and make sure you educate yourself well on climate matters. The truth is that we have a very trying time coming up soon with there likely to be hearings on climate change and such so the best thing you can do is to help destroy the misinformation by informing. The key in the debates is not to convince your opponent (they will likely never be convinced) but to have those watching recognize which side is right (ours) and which side is credible and dignified (ours). This war cannot and will not be won with antics but instead with rational conversation. They will expose themselves as loons through the debate.

  24. mikkel says:

    “As for the corporate structure, I see most industries now dominated by groups of large companies representing cartels. These cartels ensure that revolutionary change is slow to happen…The same will happen to alternative energy – it will become dominated by large interests seeking to enrich their CEOs. This will keep the price of alternatives higher than a competitive market would suggest and slow adoption.

    So in my opinion, if you want to help with climate start by fixing society.”

    This is dead on and the reason why Athena’s comment at #1 is unrealistic IMO. Look how Green has just become a new marketing slogan…and I can say from personal experience that the vast majority of people in “clean” energy don’t care about it beyond profit and thus are against innovation that can be competition to their locked in investments.

    I’m only 27 but have already spent time both in the academic world interacting with some of the stars (not in energy, in health care) and startups and by second hand, the corporate environment. I just don’t see change coming from those places…even if you can get high enough up that you have the President’s ear you may still find yourself just writing a blog a decade later [sorry Joe, what you are doing is great but you and Chu are examples of scientists that got to positions that theoretically would have policy influence and we’re still where we are.]

    As such my advice to the original poster is to focus on the younger age group of like 18-30 year olds. We have a lot of stake in what’s going on and can’t just run out the clock, so we have to be emotionally engaged and willing to try radical change on the personal level. Also we’re getting hung out to dry economically speaking and we all know it. It’s hard to plan on playing it safe when we’re going to have a Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads at every moment: I’ve found that making a plea to that inner anxiety is the way to get people to open up enough to listen about the alternatives.

    I strongly agree with the people that say to look at your own personal strengths and figure out a plan that capitalizes on them. My strengths are technical oriented and cross disciplinary, while my weaknesses are an overly rational way of communication and wandering that makes it difficult to give consistent messaging to people that don’t understand. As such I’m working on technological ideas that allow for small scale production of basic needs because a) thermodynamically it makes sense and so you need a lot less energy, with nearly zero fossil fuels and b) it would get many people engaged and have some measure of self determinism instead of trying to catch crumbs of the failing system. To me the “fix” for society is to offer a different paradigm that is based on sustenance, equality and community…and I’m hoping that once communities are created with that template then it will be a springboard for larger political movements.

    Which gets to the heart of the matter: that there are a lot of different paradigms for tackling these problems even amongst people that agree about the seriousness of the problem. I would investigate them and choose the one that speaks most to you.

  25. B C Hillway, PhD says:


    You need more information about yourself. I have some recommendations, coming up. First, focus on immediate income and doing something for a living now that will just pay the bills. You might want to go to a temp agency since you need a temporary job, or a series of them. Put together your resume, and pick up a guidebook on doing it, or find advice online.

    You didn’t mention your level of education, and it’s possible that you should focus on training to address your concerns while working in a job that will both pay the bills and allow you to work on behalf of the environment.

    Now, to learn more about yourself, I recommend that you pick up a copy of PLEASE UNDERSTAND ME II, by Dr. Kiersey. You can grab a copy at, and a used copy is inexpensive. Make a copy of the response sheet and answer the questions. Then read about yourself. Remember to answer the questions as honestly as possible. That should be the first step for you in ruling out work that is just not right for you. The Kiersey approach may take you a little while to digest, possibly, so complete the response sheet, explore, let it rest for a few days and then come back to it and things may become more clear.

    I also recommend STRENGTHS FINDER 2.0, by Tom Rath. Purchase the book, at a local Borders or Barnes&Noble, and then complete a response sheet on line using the password in the book. A document presenting the results will be sent to you as an attachment to e-mail so you can print it out. This should provide you with added focus for self-understanding. After completing this survey of my strengths, I found the results surprising AND it answered a number of questions that I hadn’t been asking, but that I needed to ask. Once again, after receiving the results, read them thoroughly, let it rest for a day or two, then go back for a better appreciation of the information.

    Combining the two surveys of your characteristics and strengths may provide you with additional direction. Both approaches provide you with some specific job possibilities that you may find appropriate when you focus, specifically, on how you would have a role in the environmental movement and sustainable industries.

    Best wishes,

    Ventura CA

  26. John Mason says:

    Ian, I read your post on the Open Thread and have been pondering it ever since. There are many reflections of my own life in there, and I suspect that goes for a lot of fellow CP contributors. Auotobiographical stuff is sometimes useful in that it can make connections between folks. Here’s my tale.

    I’m 48. After I graduated I went into minerals and still maintain an interest in same – although not in the same way. By the time I was 28, I was earning reasonable money and could have jumped off to some overseas position with one of the many big companies. I could have coined it, literally. But something seemed wrong, dead wrong.

    By the time I was 38, I was living essentially off a crust at times, but studying weather and climate, with photography as the initial motive, whilst doing a bit of research mineralogy to pay the bills. By that point I was angry, very angry. They say there are various stages of grief: they include denial, anger and acceptance. By then I had done denial pretty much. It didn’t take long, having been in the scientific world. I was writing a lot of very angry poems and yelling them down any microphone people would shove in front of me.

    A lot of us blog – Joe has explained his motives, and they are not dissimilar to mine. Disgusted at the way the media were – wittingly or otherwise – distorting bloody good science, I started mine, at first on weatherpix but later through the 2000s on both weather and climate, as my confidence in my own understanding of climate science grew. That became an outlet, where I was able to try to explain some of the basics of weather and climate to interested readers.

    In the mid-2000s I became aware of the Transition Movement, which brought together a lot of like-minded people – just as CP does here. I studied energy security i.e. peak oil, as you obviously have, and the acceptance stage really took hold – the simple acceptance that this system is heading us straight at the buffers. Several things resulted from that: the need to change my behaviour, the need to always find out as much as possible, the need to provide demonstrably working examples of how change can be pleasant (via e.g. my veg-garden-out-of-a-bramble-patch example)… and the need to understand for myself, or perhaps confirm it, that the simpler the lifestyle the better. I am fully convinced of that now, and have been for a few years: consumerism DOES NOT make people any happier – it is an illusion.

    The crap that happened around the so-called climategate bollocks, finally, made me incredibly angry again, and although I haven’t got there yet, I am aiming with all my strength to arrive at a position where I can clearly communicate climate science to the public in general in a way that I can be sure they understand. I see this as THE ambition of my life. I’ve successfully done this kind of interpretation in geology & mineralogy, but have yet to break through in climate science – by that I mean the essential difference between people reading my blog and the media commissioning pieces. But I’m working at it and will not give up.

    The way I feel is that I will not rest until the majority of people understand what’s going on here and are clamouring out for action to be taken. There is nothing wrong with wild ambition!

    You have a couple of decades worth of youth on me. I wish you luck and a clear mind on the path ahead. As a parting shot, the most important things are the best: an exceptional sunrise, a bed of shallots sprouting up with gay abandon, the call of oystercatchers across a lonely beach, seeing newly-emerged Comma butterflies in a garden you have designed to allow veg to flourish yet allow biodiversity to explode – how can those rewards equate to having the latest widescreen TV or the snazziest mobile phone? Deep down, Mankind knows what makes it truly happy. We’ve known this all along – we’ve just forgotten it.

    I wish you well.


  27. Andy Revkin says:

    Great question. The answer’s always different for everyone, but (particularly because you like adventure) I highly recommend you get in touch with Ernie E., who posted on programs bringing sustainable energy to rural African villages now: or Richard Komp, who’s described at those links and is heading to Niger to do much more. (I can get you contact info. I’m easy to track down.. ;-)

    That’s relevant beyond the small amount of clean kilowatt hours; illuminated empowered lives, in which kids can study instead of toting firewood, raise prospects for breakthroughs at all levels.

    Also get in touch with They’re brewing up a new approach that sounds exciting. More options here from 2008:
    Generation E’s Task: Protest or Invention? –

  28. Duncan says:

    Hi Ian and CP,

    I have spent many years trying to find an answer to how to change the world and to be honest, I still don’t see a magic wand that will fix everything.

    In this day and time, I have focused not on what is wrong, but what is the disease that is causing the wrong. “I” believe that the problem is not in our consumption of the environment (which is a major catastrophe, don’t get me wrong) but in why we are doing so. Sick as it sounds, we are on a merry-go-round of greed and fear.

    I have a sister who’s family has a 35′ motor boat to go fishing in, not for food, but for fun. A massive 4×4 pickup that uses up 1 hour of our fresh air every minute… because they have to work to pay for the boat and house and the hydro to run the 54″ TV and 6 computers… and pay the taxes. You know… the taxes that go to pay for wars, and subsidizing corporations that destroy other countries ecology because making money is more important than anything else. When I speak with them, it’s because it’s expected. They have to keep up “appearances”.

    Most people in North America have been raised to believe that their worth is based on their dollar value. I admit that, for the most part, the more money you have the more people take you seriously. I think it’s time to challenge that.

    How much is enough? How much do we need to be “happy”, and how much time do you have to slave away to be “happy”? I think that I have found a balance and am fortunate enough to have done so. My life won’t change the world, but does change my community. I live on a small farm. I know where my food comes from. I think twice before I spend money on the “frivolous”, and I don’t try and compete with my neighbors for bigger and better. I volunteer about 6 hours a week at the fire department and drop everything when my community needs me. I share my knowledge and try and learn something new every day. Most importantly I am willing to effectively communicate, to LISTEN and then CONSIDER, then reply.

    To change the world, you need to find the grain of sand and be willing to spend years nurturing it into that pearl. To be willing to admit your fears and face them, work on them, and let them go.

    We don’t need to be better than our neighbors. We just need to get to know them and accept that they are just like us. Confused, fearful people who are never sure they have enough.

    So what do I do that contributes to changing the world? Walk when reasonable, eat healthy to stay healthy, and communicate with those that come into my life. I remember that the dollar is NOT the bottom line and that people are worth more than any dollar amount I can imagine.

    What can you do to change the world? I don’t know, but I’m sure that one day you will change the world, even if it’s just a grain of sand.

    All the best, and thank you for asking. It’s a wonderful way to start.


  29. Max Wilbert says:

    Dear Ian, and others who are searching for effective strategies,

    It seems you are feeling frustrated with the mainstream response to climate change. I would recommend the work of Derrick Jensen, an environmental philosopher and strategist. Here are some excerpts from his work:

    “Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

    Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

    Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

    Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

    Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

    Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

    Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.

    Premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.”

    You can find out more about this worldview by reading his books, or by checking out the non-profit I am involved with – it’s called “Fertile Ground.”

    I hope you can find a path that calls to you,

  30. Theodore says:

    A feast is made for laughter,
    And wine makes merry;
    But money answers everything.

    Ecclesiastes 10:19

    I’m a true believer in the world that could be, but I have been made impotent by poverty. Try your best to avoid my fate.

    Get rich first. Money can buy the influence you will need to make a better world.

  31. Nell says:

    Can we bring a class action suit against Koch, and all the Koch heads for the loss of liberty (even life) the next generation will suffer at their hands?

  32. Biff Vernon says:

    Ian, I haven’t any suggestions for you, except to recognise that there are a great many of us who have exactly the same questions hanging over us. We just chip away as best we can.

  33. Kris Kaul says:


    Another way people are dealing with the threat and feelings of being too small to make a difference is to embrace positive systems that are sustainable in the long run. Beyond living sustainably individually, we also need to relocalize our communities so that we can be more self-supporting and self-sufficient. This is as much a cultural change as a technological or science-driven one. Systems like Permaculture, for example, strive to create closed-loop systems, modeling nature’s efficiency, and focuses not just on sustainable civilization but in restoring and rejuvenating our landscapes and soils (and culture and communities). The Transition Towns movement, which also grew out of permaculture, seeks to create resilient local communities rich in skills, food, medicine, education, etc. Here are a couple websites you might visit to learn more:

    Permaculture: a beginner’s guide

    Transition Towns

    Good luck in your pursuits,


  34. CFB says:


    “What do you guys think I should do?”

    The doer is the actor, and you do not know who the actor is yet.

    Knowing the WHO that wants to act is more important than knowing HOW the WHO should act.

    What you are asking is not a practical question, it is a spiritual one, and only you can find the answer to that. People can warn you and guide you, but the last step is all yours.

    But practically, if you want people to do something that is not easy or profitable, you have to trick them. We need to face the fact that many people are stupid. There is nothing wrong with being stupid, and we cannot make people smarter. So, we do like the advertisers do, trick them for their own good. But this should only be done by someone who is perfectly clear of their motivations.

    This is explained well in the fittingly named “Parable of the Burning House” from the Buddhist Lotus Sutra:

  35. tst says:

    First off, I haven’t read all the other responses, so my apologies if what I’m offering isn’t new or unique. That said, here are the steps I’d take if I were in your shoes.

    Pick a target group that you understand and/ or have experience with; a group that currently stands in the way of substantive climate & energy reform. I’m not talking corporate heads or energy companies or politicians, but the rank & file folks who lend their support to whichever cause that Sean or Rush or Bill are promoting at the moment. Maybe that’s socially conservative church-goers, or the local tea party, or people who’ve lost their jobs and are a now working in Burger King or Wendy’s, or conservative hunters & anglers, or individuals who work in the extractive or energy industries, or farmers and ranchers, or even the local manifestation of the Republican party.

    Do your research and find out if anyone has a serious game plan for using science, common sense and modern communications techniques to drive a wedge between the group you’ve chosen and the conservative politicians who rely on their support. If so, join the effort in whatever way you feel comfortable. If not, help start that group.

    Push as fast as you can and as hard as you can to make climate & energy a keystone issue for your target. That means you’re going to have to understand their motivations and their world view, you’re going to have to frame your message in a way that they can understand and empathize with, and you’re going to have to be fearless in your convictions, your honesty and your integrity.

    Then you have to accept that you’re only one person and you can only do so much. If you do your best to create substantive change, you’ve done all anyone could ever ask.

    A few other random thoughts:

    Don’t worry about burning out, or following this course of action for more than the next 5 or 10 years. If we haven’t made huge strides on this issue in the relatively near future, you’ll want to move on to Plan B – whatever that is in your particular case.

    Don’t give in to despair. Focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t. And spend time in the natural world – it’s a great way to rejuvenate and heal.

    Continue to educate yourself. Over the years, I’ve studied everything from climate & energy, to our current financial system, to how to build a debris hut and start a fire without matches, to permaculture, to … well, you get the idea. Some of the people I follow on the web are Richard Heinberg, Thom Hartmann, John Michael Greer, Bill McKibben and Chris Martenson, but there are any number of folks advocating sanity and sustainability who are worth listening to.

    Reach out and find other people who share your worries and your passions. Just don’t fall into the trap of preaching to the choir – what we’ve done in the past has not worked. Now it’s time to try new approaches.

    Good luck!

  36. Emile says:

    Hi Ian,

    Except for a lot of negative messages, there’s also a lot of inspiring messages to find. Check out and you will get more optimistic about the things that we can do and are in fact already doing.

    One person I find very inspiring and informed is Better Place CEO Shai Agassi ( ). Check out his latest full interview here (flash required):

    If I were you I would get a career going in a company like Better Place or Tesla. They are going to be big and they are going to disrupt the current business as usual. Actually they already have, if you have followed the car (and EV) news closely the last few years. I would love to set up something in that direction (electric transport) as well and in fact I may one day. Again, watch that interview and start watching as many TED talks as you can on and no doubt you’ll become an inspired optimist again.

  37. nika says:

    Kris beat me to it! awesomeness

    Get your strong young self into a WWOOF program in a climate you can tolerate and do something real to save part of the world for some of our children.

    You will be amongst people who completely get what your suffering from and some of them will be examples of how to move beyond the static angst into active productive positive change.

    I am a cynic by biological orientation (i see it as being realistic) but I see the solution for any of us to be: WWOOFing for the youth and energetic adults, widespread permaculture education and practice in all ecological settings, strenuous and real work toward building lifeboat transition communities, conscious energy descent and effective re-empowerment of the individual within the context of a livable future.


    working in a political call center or chaining yourself to the white house fence is in the cobwebby corner of a very irrelevant room inside a burning house.


  38. Larry Beck says:

    Stay informed Ian. Reading Dr. Joe’s blog is a good resource but make other connections and read the recommended literature.

    Stay determined. This is a daily effort, sometimes taking one step forward and wounding up two steps back. But sometimes we see great progress. Every bit of energy you exert requires energy from the opposition and time to counter your actions. Without yours and thousands of other pushing back, the climate deniers would sail through this too easily.

    Be the barrier in your region that creates one more obstacle for them. Get involved locally with like-minded people and plan events to constantly educate a poorly informed public Write letters to the editor about how your community gains with clean renewable energy and suffers each day we rely on fossil fuels.

    Remain confident and don’t let the deniers frustrate you. Like Joe said, you’re not going to change their minds anyway. It’s the fence sitters you want to convince. Like you found yourself one time, they too may be leaning in the climate hawk direction and just need a bit more encouragement from a familiar face. Be that face

    Good luck my friend.

  39. DaveFinnigan says:

    I suggest some of you consider working with young kids.

    As I read through the suggestions to Ian I realized that almost everyone is suggesting that he dedicate his energy to work with changing the consciousness of people 18 and over, college students and adults. My advice is to the contrary, that you join me in focusing on educating people under 13. It is a great deal easier to help a young person make up their mind than it is to force an older person to change their mind. Demography is destiny and Demographically speaking what we need is for the kids who are now under 13 to grow up with a different worldview, register to vote, and change the direction of the World. It is too late to change the minds of most adults, but the kids are open and ready to learn, if you can get to them. Frankly, they educate the adults.

    I personally have selected for myself the niche of elementary and middle school climate change education. Since most curriculum is written at the state level and is under the thumb of conservative state departments of education, in most states the topic of climate or ecology or the environment is not even introduced until 8th or 9th grade. So I bring in a program from outside, Climate Change is Elementary, and help little kids, their parents and their teachers begin to discuss and make decisions about living responsibly on this Planet.

    It is very fulfilling on a day to day basis to get little kids excited about being good stewards of the World and of nature. Kids love polar bears and penguins, dolphins and frogs, learning about rain forest critters and hurricanes and the rapidly unfolding low-energy future that they will help to create. They love the part where they get to make up a beautiful ideal future for themselves and the animals and plants. Then they take a pledge to work toward that future no matter what.

    This is not a job that you apply for through any of the existing NGOs, it is a program that you learn to present, and then you create a job for yourself in your own geographical region. Progressive PTAs at public and private schools are happy to have you come in and spend a day and since they will be bringing in some outside program almost every month, why not yours? They spend good money for a musician or a magician, why not spring for someone who brings in exciting activities and information that can change the minds and lives of the children, supplement the curriculum and involve parents and teachers as well.

    Climate Change is Elementary dot org is my contribution that helps me feel like I am doing something important and exciting that can absorb my energy and my desire to do well while doing good. Please feel free to join me or to create a program yourself. Incidentally I’m 69, so it would be great to have younger proteges learning this program.

  40. David B. Benson says:

    So here is an invention which, if it scales up, would be a big help. Very big.

    STEP: new solar-powered process removes CO2 from the air and stores it as solid carbon

    It’ll take a lot of effort and such a solution is needed right away.

  41. David B. Benson says:

    Here is another.

    Syngas: Solar Fuel, With High Efficiency

  42. espirtwater says:

    The first thought which came to me– when he said he had a daring and courageous nature– was, “he needs to read Derrick Jensen’s books!” (Especially “Endgame” Part 1 and part 2).

    However, after reading Joe’s remarks (3rd. paragraph)about his own life, his advice sounded even better.

    Like others have posted, we all seem to be pretty much in the same boat, regardless of age. Just the other day I was expressing similar grief to a Church leader.

    Einstein said that problems can’t be solved at the same level of consciousness where they were created. If we take his advice to heart, we will begin MEDITATING and raising our consciousness to a higher level… either that or wait until the tides come in, wiping our coastal cities… then we will have no choice! Our consciousness WILL be lifted!

  43. Alec Johnson says:

    It’s a great question, Ian, at any age, and let me applaud you for asking it. I think about this question a great deal because, like you, and the regulars here, I understand quite well the nature of the predicament we’re in and the unique, unprecedented challenge it truly is. The magnitude of the problem demands big answers and clear ones.

    You’ve already accomplished one of the suggestions I’d first make, but it bears repeating. Stay on top of the science, policy, and politics of Global Warming/Peak Oil. Remain a subject matter expert. “Knowledge must forever govern ignorance,” President John Madison once wrote, “and those who would be their own governor’s must arm themselves with the power that knowledge brings.” In this area, I’d get very well armed indeed.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to develop a working understanding of permaculture. Eventually, I’m sure, I will and I’d recommend that you do. Not only is it immensely practical, it will be a skill in demand in the not too distant future: low-energy agriculture. More importantly, it would be the kind of proficiency that would be great to bring to a community. It’s philosophy adds a formidable boost to one’s critical thinking skills too, as near as I can tell.

    I think one of the best things to do altogether is to create resilient communities. Transition Town makes excellent sense from every angle to me and I persist in boring total strangers with the virtue of this answer to addressing many problems we face all at once. is probably a place you are already aware of.

    Perhaps you’ll discover that you have other talents. Are you a good public speaker? If not, there are ways to get better. Joe Romm has this great quote in his “Hell and High Water” from Winston Churchill: “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king.” You mention not being good doing political work, if you hone your oratorical skills you might surprise yourself.

    All in all, there are many ways to skin this cat and I’ve offered some suggestions that I see have been echoed in the comments of others. The recently coined “Climate Hawks” inspire me to consider what the heights of such hawkishness might be. I still haven’t fully plumbed them, but I wonder if we won’t meet some fascinating individuals in our future who’s abilities flower under the tremendous weight of the adversity we share.

    I’d be interested in following your development in this area. Be sure and check back in, Ian.

    I’m in my late 50’s and have been unemployed since late July. Given all that I know and can do, I do find this surpassing strange. I remain eager to saddle up and get on with it.

  44. Des Carne says:

    Listen to Bill Rees’ explanation of our predicament – esp part 7, – there is plenty of satisfying, imaginative and socially productiv3e to do, despite the enormity of our predicament.

  45. JMH says:


    I am from Germany. Let me share some thoughts from that particular perspective on your role as an American citizen.

    I think your country is in a very particular situation now. It is hard for an outsider to overlook some parallels to Germany in 1929-33. See Big unemployment and economic crisis. Increasing polarization of politics. Some big business supporting the most stupid populist and (yes…) fascist forces. Politics of hatred and fear. Political violence and assassinations, as this weekend in Tucson.

    Our country went into a dark age some 78 years ago, threatening the rest of the world, leading to huge catastrophes. History does not repeat itself, but still, it is absolutely frightening to see the parallels. It is really scary.

    With respect to climate, it is clear that the forces of darkness have picked the US as the pivot from which to hold up progress globally. They have won last year, but the battle is never over.

    If you have inclinations to engage in some form of political life, be it as part of social movements, in journalism, or in more formal politics: Please do it. We need talented young people joining the fight and leading that fight inside the US. We need enlightened US participation in global affairs. At a very minimum we need to stop the US going down the road that Germany has gone in 1933. And climate is a big part of that.

  46. Ian says:

    To Joe and everyone,

    WOW. Thank you so so so much. I didn’t expect this outpouring at all. I wish I could give everyone a hug or high-five but a simple THANK YOU will have to do.

    I really appreciate the diversity of responses and suggestions. There are countless actions I could take and I guess that is part of my problem.

    Joe and others have asked for some more info about my background though there isn’t much to share. I have a degree in film production, so obviously most of my skills are in that area. I have a job in video production that pays the bills but I don’t care for it anymore. Feels strange to analyze oneself, but my personal strengths are understanding and relating and talking to people. I’m capable of understanding a lot of the science but I am much, much better at understanding people.

    I obviously have thought about making a movie of some sort, though I don’t think another environmental movie will ever have as much impact as An Inconvenient Truth. Also, I think my interpersonal skills would serve me well in a non-profit, but I can’t help but think I’ll just be a cog in a machine. I greatly admire non-profits and all the work they’re doing but I just can’t see myself working on such a small level.

    As some people have pointed out, I’m having trouble balancing the things I’ve come to understand about our current situation. I could choose an entirely new career, but how much longer will that really last? I’m not expecting some complete collapse of our civilization within the next year, but an inevitably slowing economy means less jobs in all sectors. I don’t want to waste my time pursuing a position that soon might not exist.

    I know what my main problems is, and I’ll bet most of you can relate to it. I think (way too) big. I like thinking about the size of the universe and how small we are in it. I don’t think most people stop to think about things like this. We’re very small but the fact that we have consciousness and rationality make us (seemingly) unique in the universe and I don’t want to waste millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of human culture just because a few people stood in the way. I think human beings are too important to waste.

    I know I sound like a total idealist and I know whatever path I choose will not be easy at all. I’m sure I’ll have to start small and I’m sure I will face a lot more heartbreak along the way.

    I’m starting to cry a little bit (no Boehner jokes) thinking about everyone helping me out like this. I’d really like to hear more suggestions.

    Thank you to everyone. Really. Thank you.


  47. espiritwater says:

    Our bodies are small, but consciousness is infinite!

  48. George Ennis says:

    Ian, I am more than twice your age and I come from a large family with over 19 nephews and nieces many of whom are around your age.

    Ian the world will need its most educated and creative people more than ever in the decades to come as it tries to navigate transitioning away from a carbon based economy and adapt to the global warming/climate change to come. That journey will happen but it will be one with advances and setbacks as in today when we have not implemented any substantive climate change legislation.

    So what can you do starting tomorrow? First are you doing everything possible to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you use public transit whenever possible instead of a car? Do you and your city recycle as much as possible? If not contact your local government and demand that they do more. Have you written every government representative and let them know you want them to take action to deal with climate change. Ask your government representatives whether they accept that AGW is real and is happening now. If not let them know that they will not have your vote. Does your hydro utility use smart meters? If not ask them why they don’t and demand that there be a large price differential in using energy in off-peak hours.

    I am not sure where your public broadcasting network (TV and radio) stand on the reality of climate change but you might want to make sure there is continued funding for it since you certainly cannot leave it up to FOX, CNN etc to deliver the message.

    If you live in a state that toys with introducing “intelligent design” into the school curriculum do everything you can to fight it since it is the leading edge in the attack on science. If you live in a state that provides any kind of flood insurance for coastal residents make sure that the insurance premiums paid are going into an actual reserve fund and not a general revenue fund. It is only when people get the correct price signal in many cases by way of higher property insurance premiums that they will understand that there is a real cost in doing nothing about climate change.

    Demand changes to building codes so that buildings and new homes are insulated to the highest standards. Support high density residential development and the building of subway, LRT and high speed passenger rail lines.

    You could also become involved in changing laws related to the disclosure of donations to the political parties. The current laws ensure that the vested economic interests with doing nothing about climate change can try and hide in the shadows as they effectively buy the legislators off to get the legislation or lack thereof that they want.

    Those are a few things that come to mind.

  49. fj3 says:

    ANDREW C. REVKIN DoT Earth Follow-up on his #28 comment here:

    Young Activists Seek Roles on Energy, Climate

  50. Raul M. says:

    Sitting at some nameless road intersection
    and watching the cars go by, I learned that
    is a lot of cars going by. Wouldn’t it be a
    good change for the cars to go electric &
    to be renewable powered.
    One seat- One view- One solution

  51. pete best says:

    Dont feel helpless – bad climate change is still a long way off and reversible. You can do many many positive things to change your life, your communities and your countries stance of ACC. Time is still available to make a difference.

  52. David Stern says:

    I don’t think society is going to “collapse” within your lifetime but the environment is going to continue to be degraded and eventually that will impact food supply, sea level rise – i.e. really concrete things that affect people’s well-being. So, I don’t think “desperate actions” like chaining yourself to the White House are necessary or useful. My suggestion is not to give up on your existing career dreams and goals but to think about how they can be directed to benefit the planet. And also think about some course of action that could have a big pay-off but will at least have some smaller benefits along the way. Not putting all your eggs in the one basket of having a huge impact. Maybe you will or maybe you won’t. I’m an academic. Early in my career (late 1980s when I was applying to grad school) I decided I wanted to do research and teaching in an area that might make a difference rather than one that I knew wouldn’t. I became an ecological economist. I know I’m not and won’t likely come up with any big solutions to our problems but try to contribute by pointing at what works and what doesn’t and helping people understand what is really happening. You need to see where your talents lie whether it is developing a business that produces more sustainable products, whether it is teaching etc. Think about what is “scalable”. Wil definitely have a small impact and could have a big impact. Businesses can be scalable. They may never grow beyond the local area or may become multinationals. Academic research is scalable. It may have little impact or you might become a star that people pay attention to. Politics also is scalable. Typically you start locally and if you are successful can go higher.

  53. Ian,

    I’d be interested in talking to you; I’m co-founder of this project:

    You can email me via the contact button on the site.

    best regards,

    Richard Reiss

  54. dp says:

    the zero-footprint future needs a militant but peaceful army to demand it and make sure it’s fair; help recruit & train the army

  55. Colorado Bob says:

    Ian –

    These people could use a hand –

    ” He not bust being born, is busy dying ”
    B. Dylan

  56. ToxicAvenger says:

    There are so many factors contributing to global warming and environmental degradation. But it seems to me the largest and most powerful contributor is the corporation. Maybe you should concentrate on that.

    It’s not just the “evil” heads of Exxon Mobil who are the culprits. It’s the actual corporate structures– the laws that make corporations what they are. These laws require that corporations’ top priority is to provides profits to shareholders. As a result corporations like BP, Exxon Mobil, CocaCola etc are legally required to generate profit above all else. This means they must increase revenue and/or reduce costs, even if they hurt the environment, enforce slave labor, corrupt governments etc etc. Reducing costs often means externalizing them, i.e. making others pay for the costs. As a result we see coal companies dumping their toxic sludge in streams and rivers,because its cheaper than treating it and disposing of it safely. This shifts the cost burden off of the company and onto the environment and the people who depend on that environment for survival.

    Essentially corporate laws in America require that corporations damage the environment, or abuse workers, or destroy communities and cultures, in the pursuit of profit. The laws have made corporations profit making machines that are extremely efficient at externalizing their costs. Even if we advocate against environmental degradation and create national regulations against polluting, ultimately if it’s cheaper to pollute and damage the environment corporations will continue to do so, simply because that is what the corporation is designed to do.

    Check out the book “The Corporation”– it provides a really good explanation and analysis.

    It seems to me the most effective and lasting way to stop environmental degradation is to attack the problem at its root– by changing the corporate structure, so that providing profit is not the top priority. I don’t know what form this could take, but maybe you could keep this in mind as you decide what to do with your life. You could work on changing the structure of the corporation, so that it has other more socially and environmentally beneficial goals, in addition to making profit.

  57. Colorado Bob says:

    RE ShelterBox –

    They are one of the first to respond to this this stuff :

    Four killed, 800,000 displaced in Sri Lankan floods and earthslides

    Brazil government says 100,000 displaced by floods

    Heavy flooding in Brazil kills 35, leaves thousands homeless, and submerges nearly 60 cities in four states.

  58. Richard D says:

    how about, making a film asking the question what does it mean to want to face the reality of global warming – contact, visit and interview, if possible, the people near to you, on this blog whether they be scientists, permaculture types, economists or ordinary folk, reiterate your questions with time allowing. I’m sure there is a lot of richness in the subject matter understanding how people process these complex and interrelated ideas.
    just an idea – sorry not exactly a career move tho

  59. Alteredstory says:

    One thing you might want to consider is finding a way to work on getting coal plants to retrofit for geothermal.

    The grand total of my knowledge of this issue can be summed up in this video (not the whole video either) , but the general idea seems sound – If people could figure out ways to get individual plant owners to jump for going geothermal and stopping the use of coal, we could start making real progress.

  60. Dan Allen says:

    Hello. If you’re worried about the food system in a post-peak, climate-destabilized US & you’d like to do something about it, check out — Dan

  61. Jan Paul van Soest says:

    Dear Ian,

    Thanks for your open-hearted post.
    I’ve co-authored a book exactly about these questions: Earth Fever, see
    It may be helpful in a way, at least I hope.
    Key in our perspective is: both dare to see the situation as it really is, and discover authentic hope. Like former Cech republic president Vaclav Havel said: Hope is a quality of the soul, and does not depend on what is actually happening in the world.

  62. Jack Besuchet says:

    Hi Ian,
    Education/information is one of weapons we must use, you know how to produce films…
    On a more personal level,”hope for the best and prepare for the worst” implies re-skilling ourselves in the most basic techniques (food and shelter)and a no waste lifestyle as the first steps in becoming resilient.
    Most of all, always look at the bright side…
    Best Wishes

  63. Gerard says:

    Hi Ian,

    Congratulations – you’ve realised we can’t leave it up to governments.

    The simplest thing you can do to help the planet is vote with your fork – I mean switch to plant foods, because:

    1. Livestock contributes 18-51% of greenhouse gases (see “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, or “WorldWatch Livestock and Climate Change”
    2. Livestock is the greatest driver of deforestation (see Greenpeace Slaughtering the Amazon)
    3. Livestock is the greatest driver of biodiversity loss (the current extinction crisis) (loss of habitat, linked to deforestation)
    4. Livestock is the greatest driver of desertification and soil degradation.
    5. Livestock live weight now outweighs wildlife by 8:1 (FAOstats)
    6. The current dangerous overpopulation is livestock (60 billion plus fish), not humans (6 billion) – and none of the waste is treated, creating algae blooms and ocean dead zones.
    7. Eating plants will make you far healthier.
    8. We are evolving, and plant foods help that process.

    then contemplate your strengths and see what you’re good at – then use that!

    Go you good thing!

  64. AndrewW says:

    Dear Ian,

    “Smart” has be re-defined during the last few decades. In no longer means educated or accomplished or experienced – it simply means you can figure things out. Information on anything is now available to anyone.

    I think it’s more important to figure out what you “want,” and then design a life to accomplish that.

    I would also suggest you gather more information about global warming from individuals like Bjorn Lomborg. His approach is to solve the problem, not punish or scare people. Check out his movie here:

  65. David says:

    Ian, if you have a degree in film production you are in a very good position to make a huge difference. I suggest you team up with a good, well-informed writer and produce a Web video or two. That may make a very significant contribution to the debate, and it will certainly make a major contribution to your creative reel and your job prospects.

    I’m an ad industry veteran who WISHES he had deeper skills in video production, because it is now an indispensable skill. However, you do need the writing/reporting ingredient to do this well, so I suggest you either refine those skills yourself, or, smarter yet, find a partner to fill that need (and to provide a creative sounding board; two heads generally outdo one). Going to work in a good commercial production company is a great way to hook up with the right people. One caveat: if you don’t already live in a major media market, move to one, and make working with that city’s best people your top priority.

    Meanwhile, keep worrying about civilization, but not too much. We’ll work it out. But it’d sure be great to have you helping us to do the right thing sooner rather than later.

  66. David B. Benson says:

    Dan Allen @58 — Thank you for the link.

  67. Prospace Environmentalist says:

    Don’t be a protester because the corporate news media will consistently ignore you and you will get even more discouraged and depressed.

    I second #31 Theodore – make lots of money since, at least in the U.S., money IS power. Also, finding positive ways to market or commercialize game-changing innovations suggested by #41 & 42 David Benson.

  68. Neven says:

    Try to determine first what it is you don’t want to do. What you want will then emerge by itself.

  69. Joan Savage says:


    I started to leave an effusive general note of encouragement, and then caught that you are trained in film production.

    Take a look at the film, “Home,” viewable on the web

    I hope it challenges you to go beyond, and express something new and important through your film skills.

  70. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    Nothing can be done here.
    Move to North Alaska
    Create a profitable life probably on the internet.
    Buy as much property as possible.
    Plan how to remake civilization after the collapse.
    Attract followers.
    This Earth and the human race needs you.

  71. i’ve posted a number of resources for living sustainably and comfortably on this website.

  72. Rob R. says:


    Never submit to despair. Your heart will show you the direction but use your mind to negotiate the path.

    Clearly your strength lies in communication, that will always be useful. I would suggest that you work mostly with those of your own generation since they will be calling the shots before long and older people at some point usually become fossilized in their world view. The climate change problem should become common knowledge for everyone. It’s causes such as the internal combustion engine, coal-fired power plants, the excessive consumption of meat and so on should be seen as pariahs like smoking has become today.

    So, study the issues as much as you can. Be brave and determined regardless of the slings and arrows that may come your way and above all stay positive!

  73. Luke says:

    Ian –

    and Athena and Brigid,

    …and anyone else commenting that they are in the same boat:

    First of all I’m in that boat too. I recently finished a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and since graduation have been looking for career paths where I too can make an impact. This has so far led me down the road of internships and volunteering for some great causes, but also ones suffering from funding issues. Thus I’m in a similar plight of trying to make a difference while making ends meet in our unsustainable, farce economy.

    Anyway, I’ve been working on a project in my spare time that I think you might be very interested in. It is centered around communicating the climate change issue to everyday people and even skeptics. It utilizes a communications strategy that I have found to be far and away the most successful technique to get people not only to listen, but actually really care and take up the cause themselves.

    So far I have been working on putting this presentation together into website form – but Ian if you want to step it up to movie level – I’m totally game. I actually really like this idea, have been saying for a while now that someone needs to make a new film, so it might as well be us! I already have a “script” more or less anyway. There are still a lot of details though, which is why I could use help from anyone who’s good at communicating ideas or just doing extra research – be it for a website, or a movie.

    Anyway, I’m hoping Joe can pass on the email I left in this post to any of you guys if you’re interested. I’ll send along more details that way and you can decide for yourselves.

    – Luke

    PS nothing wrong with thinking big. Think big, start small!

  74. Sou says:

    What a lot of great comments here.

    I always suggest to younger people to do what they love doing. Don’t give up on your dreams. If you think they will not take you in the direction you now want to go, adapt them so they will. And make a plan – and keep it up to date (ie change it as you go along and as you change.)

    More generally, people listen to those in a position of ‘authority’ to them. That means a parent, a primary school teacher, a good university lecturer. (The reason for rapid adoption of home recycling, wearing seat belts, quitting smoking etc was because the young children in households wouldn’t let up on their older siblings and parents and grandparents!)

    People are sometimes influenced by inspiring politicians or presidents, but they have to be very, very good – otherwise people only acknowledge them but are not influenced in a major way. Lawmakers obviously make a difference to behaviours (if not always to attitudes and beliefs) because they shape the boundaries of what societies do, and open possibilities for where societies can go. Film makers and writers can make a difference because they show people new ideas and different ways of doing things – and have a large audience.

    An admired person in one field can make a difference in other aspects by letting people know their views and behaviours. Al Gore showed us what can be done.

    The more there is an apparent dissonance between image and ideas, the bigger the impact. For example, the number of big companies that are ‘going green’ is making otherwise skeptical people think again about our future. (Even putting up solar panels on the front roof gets the neighbours thinking!)

    Your life does not have to be only consumed by matters relating to climate and environment unless that is what you want. Do your own thing and become very good at it, then people will respect you, watch and take note of what you do and listen thoughtfully when you speak of other matters of concern to you.

    I wish you well.

  75. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ian, if you like working with people, you may be interested in a workshop that has been developed specifically for pulling comunities together to work out what they can do both to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

    As you will see from the websites and, it is based on established science and has been piloted to ensure it works. It does not depend on people having specific beliefs but on their own personal observations of the changes they are seeing around them. It is based on a form of organization that induces cooperation rather than competition and hence self interest and therefore, generates motivation and energy for the tasks ahead.

    If you contact Peter through the sustainable future website, he will discuss it with you and put you into contact with others in North America. This is not a commercial operation and you can do it with local communities at weekends. Good luck, we still have time to make a difference, ME

  76. Eban Goodstein says:

    Especially after yesterday’s shooting: get 25 other 25 year olds, and all run for congress on a clean energy platform:

  77. Luke says:


    My name is Luke, I am 29 years old and have been going through the same thought process as you for the past few years. I have been working in Sales and Marketing now for the past 9 years earning a very handsome salary but struggling to find meaning in what I do when there are so many important issues which need tackling, improving the bottom line of the company I work for just seems unimportant to me.

    So, what have I done? I have just quit my job to study full time in Environmental Science majoring in fisheries management. The issues facing the worlds fisheries is something I am passionate about and therefore am going to focus my attention on this issue.

    Although on our own we cant save the world, the way I look at it is that we all have issues in our own backyard. If each of us or at least a dedicated few can focus on these local issues the world as a whole can benefit. As well as this, by keeping up to date on issues around the world we can assist in influencing those around us to help grow this movement of environmental change that this world really needs.

    My advice to you would be to not focus on saving the world, however focus on a key issue you are passionate about and put steps in place that can help you get to a point where you can help solve it.

    Hats off to you for following your passion. I would be keen to know how you go. As of next month, I will be unemployed and doing the same thing. I beleive the sacrafice to be worth it though.

    I wish you all the best.


  78. adelady says:

    Ian, you say you’re good at communicating with people. Regardless of what you decide to do for a crust, make communication your hobby.

    You’re young and male. The prime target for car advertising. You could just go along to a couple of car dealerships each week and look at cars. Spend a lot of time asking about fuel efficiency, hybrids, when do they think their supplier will come up with an all-electric. No need to ‘tell’ them anything about mass transit or other large scale matters.

    Just make sure that as many car ‘people’ as possible get the opportunity to explain to you the advantages of the vehicles in their range. Remember, if you don’t buy a car from them, their employers and suppliers will be getting -just one- statistic that gas guzzlers are not popular with a young man. Not a soccer mom, not a fleet manager, but the kind of person they direct a lot of their advertising to.

    If you sit down and think a bit, you can come up with similar ideas. You’re not trying to convert anyone to anything, or sell anything. You’re sowing seeds. Personal communication is very powerful, as long as it’s not from a door-knocker trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner or the path to redemption.

    When I was your age I was absolutely fearless – a union representative in a conservative organisation. The important thing was never to get yourself fired, to take every small victory over an idiotic manager as a great boon, to treat every failure as a lesson to guide future dealings. In the end, I was a member of several union-management bodies that did, for a time, do a lot of good for a lot of people.

    Develop your talents, find like-minded friends, channel your energy.

    Remember to “bloom where you’re planted”. But, being young, you have lots of choices about what, where, how, ‘where’ might be.

  79. pigleg says:

    Join/start your local chapter of citizens climate lobby and a transition.

  80. Villabolo says:

    Get a decent job, live ultracheap and invest in survival items.

    Learn all you can about permaculture; self-reliant communities; self defense, individual and collective. Get an assortment of skills that a collapsing society or a pioneering one may find useful.

    Network with like minded people with a view; if not for yourself then for your future children; of forming self reliant communities.

    See the future in terms of creating a new civilization, not reforming this one.

  81. Matto says:

    As Joe said: “I suggest you start by developing a strategic plan that builds on your strengths”

    I remember over hearing my children playing outside last summer and something one of them said stuck with me: “Hey can you do THIS? Look at what I can do!” This feeling stays with us our entire lives and needs to be cultivated and nourished. Competency, and the cultivation and expansion of it are essential to one’s sense of well being.

    What are you good at? What do you love doing? Do them more, get better at them. Learn a new skill. Resist stagnation. Spend more time outside enjoying the very climate you fear for.

    In the words of Alistair Cooke:

    “In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”

  82. BioMapper says:


    Great question, I thought about it on my very cold bike ride around the lake today. I would answer with “Learn, Write, Adapt, and Connect”.

    Learning. No matter what you need to continue aggressively learning. Formally and informally. Don’t like your job? Go to grad school where you will be pushed to learn, analyze, and communicate. There are undoubtedly a number of programs where you can gain greater confidence in your understanding of the science while refining your excellent communications skills. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but you seem like you’d enjoy the challenge and would definitely come out a stronger thinker than you were when you entered.

    Writing. I am 36 and I am still coming to grips with the importance of writing. The idea that one writes to convey ideas to others is obvious. The real importance of writing for me at this point in my life is that process of writing strengthens you as a thinker as you are forced to clarify your thoughts. This year my goal is to use writing to focus my actions as well by blogging weekly on ecological living. I input non-stop but knowing that I will need to write forces me to concentrate ideas into actions.

    Adapting. You mentioned that you didn’t feel that minimzing your carbon footprint was significantly satisfying but perhaps if you viewed it in terms of skills-learning you might appreciate it more. I don’t expect a dramatic collapse anytime soon but I find it extremely fulfilling to learn to grow food, etc. and move down a path of self-reliance while lessening my footprint.

    Connecting. We all need to continue to connect with our families, friends, communities, and environment. If we are to succeed in this struggle, our love for humanity and this planet must overwhelm and outlast the fossil-barons’ love for their profits.

    If you pursue the activities, you’ll likely find, as I did, that feedback loops are generated and soon you are doing more than you ever could have imagined. This is empowering and we need empowered people in this struggle for it will be a long one.

    Thanks for posing the question. You have stimulated a terrific exchange of ideas.


  83. It’s amazing, even in the 1960’s there were tons of people who were getting informed on this stuff, tons of books came out, and tons of smart people ringing the alarm, but I really think our parents grew up basically feeling little to no ‘stress’ about the environment. I don’t want anyone to think i’m ‘stressed’ about it, but how about raising a family? I live in China now, and looking around, the place is totally over-crowded. I’m seriously putting off the marriage/raising a family thing because of this stuff. Maybe it’s just me, but I think my generation has a totally different attitude about the ‘standard formula’ because these factors seem to be coming to a head.

    The one thing I’ll say to the original poster: money is not going to make you happy, but with money, you can make great things happen. Some of the wealthiest men and women on this planet are now thrilled to wake up everyday and devote most of their attention to helping people, and reducing the carbon footprint. Read up on what Bill Gates, Buffett, and Richard Branson are doing. A few things you need if you want to emulate their great work: you need people to get behind you, and you need money, and you need time. You’re very very young and well-informed so you have your whole life ahead of you to make a big difference, that’s awesome. Now you just need a way to get like-minded people behind you and start giving a percentage of your annual income to charities and causes you love. And if you can get people behind you giving the exact same percentage … it really adds up.

    So you’re not a billionaire like Richard Branson.. so what? if you can get a hundred, a thousand people behind you giving even 1% of their income to a great charity, you can take credit for that! What are you waiting for??! Drop me a line if you wanna talk more, I’d love to hear your plans.


  84. adelady says:

    80 Michael Robson. “our parents grew up feeling little to no stress about the environment”. Not exactly.

    We saw these issues as science / technology matters that would be dealt with as others had been. Remember Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof. At the time, that just seemed like a small, logical first step.

    Then along came Ronald Reagan who pulled them down. But remember, Reagan would now be unacceptable to the US right wing of politics and the media. The world has changed dramatically.

    Ian, and my children who are in the same age group, have to deal with a vastly different political and public landscape. You can do it. Eventually you will have to face the fact that some truly terrible things will be beyond your control. But we grew up with the threat of nuclear war constantly in our faces. We dodged that one. And it wasn’t just good luck, though that played a part.

    You won’t be able to dodge some of the unavoidable environmental consequences, but you will find a way to change many important things. You will make a better world possible for your own children and grandchildren.

    Roll up your sleeves and do your best.

  85. Steve L says:

    I think film is a great way to make a positive difference. I tried to show a film (“A Sea Change”) about ocean acidification at the local university. Unfortunately, promotion/advertisement wasn’t very great and only about 30 people attended. I would try again, but I can have the same level of effect if I just print a few “What is ocean acidification?” t-shirts. In fact, that’s what I’m going to do.

  86. Anna Haynes says:

    “You do: everything you can to increase public demand for significant and immediate policy action to combat global climate change.” – Greg Craven

    In your case Ian, this likely involves filmmaking. Are you reading The Benshi? (on communication that works)

  87. Richard Miller says:

    This is not an answer to the life question, but a very practical way of responding to our situation. I am a professor and I am speaking on the issue and have helped form a local group, which is working on a local education plan. One idea that I have not had the time to pursue, is to mobilize the readers of this blog. There are 42,000 readers of this site. If you could mobilize 2% of the people who read this blog to write letters on various climate issues that could make a big effect. For instance, you could post a sample letter to the State Department asking for another Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone Xl Pipeline, which might be built to transport dirty tar sands oil to the US. People would use your letter as guidance, write their own letter, and then report to you that they have written their letter. Thus you could get feedback on the level of response from this online community. People on this site now know you, maybe you could focus all of us on central timely climate issues. Take an issue every two weeks or every month and get people writing. We must not only know the climate issue, but we must relentlessly push our leaders. A friend knows the chief of staff of an important swing Senator and the chief of staff said that if he got 50 letters on an issue that would be a Tsunami of public input on an issue and could have a real effect. There is an existing community of people who are educated on the issue, now it is time to mobilize them. I could help, if you would like to work together. Let me know in a follow up post and I will give you my email.

  88. djrabbit says:


    It sounds like you’re thinking long-term here. In that case, I suggest you do your best to amass resources (money), power (position), and influence (friendships, networks) to put towards your eventual worthy efforts. And don’t assume that you will build those things through climate activism, clean tech, etc, because that would really limit your options.

    Easiest way to amass money is to inheret it. Make nice with that crazy old relative of yours (the racist one, yeah). Power is generally through business (ownership or management), political office (esp. executive branch), or worse (blackmail, which I don’t recomend). Oftentimes it’s easier to help a friend to power, who you can then influence, than to obtain it for yourself. So don’t be greedy. Do read Nietzsche. Influence is easiest if you have the discipline to consistently apply the techniques elucidated by Dale Carnegie and the like.

    On a less cynical note, life is about much more than the climate crisis, the extinction crisis, the energy crises, etc. — so make sure your life is about more than those things, too! Otherwise you’ll come across as dull to most people, and they might be right. Influence goes to zero.


    Finally, find the innner strength to exhibit outward joyfullness. Much as David Smith #15 and Robert # 24 said. No point in modeling right behavior (and concern) unless you let other people see the joy and fulfillment you gain by leading a purpose-drive, meaningful life. (They’re not going to follow your example if they think it will make them miserable.) It sounds like you have a mission in life, which is more than most people have.

  89. Steve says:

    Ian, I’m a retired Canadian and have many of the same thoughts and concerns that you have. Our civilization is at a unique juncture right now. As a collective we have the means to turn this around yet we continue to march lemming-like and lock-step over the cliff taking the fates of tens of thousands of irreplaceable species with us.

    Unfortunately there will be no serious climate action taken in the short term or even perhaps another decade unless we have an event that causes mankind to admit that we have a problem and that we must change course with no further delay. It is difficult to accept that the magnitude of the recent Gulf disaster, while horrendous in scope does not meet even that lofty threshold.

    In some respects, we (the western economies)are like the drunk that downs a couple of bottles of wine every day, never admitting that unsustainable levels of consumption might be a problem. Maybe some of us recognize we have a problem but we feel powerless to do anything about it.

    As you may suspect the baby boom generation (mine) has been EPIC FAIL. We have been too busy building the Ponzi scheme we call the modern market place. People of your generation and your children’s children will lose much more than mine as it was my generation which received all the benefit of burning fossil fuels with little to no downside. My generation caused the problem and continues to make it worse even while denying its existence further demonstrating our collective pathology of hopeless addiction.

    The younger generation needs to get educated about the threat and what needs to be done to address it. While climate science can be complex, it is not rocket science. It is basic physics and chemistry. Young people need to engage on a massive basis (social media can help here) and demand change from their parents and from local, state, provincial and federal governments and politicians of all stripes. Dr. James Hansen is talking about using the courts to confront polluting industries. He needs all the help and encouragement he can get.

    This won’t be an easy journey because entrenched interests hold the planet with an iron grip and it will not release its hold that easily.
    To make matters worse there are huge segments of the population whom are totally uninformed or if they do have information it is anti-science denier talking points. Because science has been politicized, young people need to get involved in politics if necessary and address the rot from inside as well as force change by demonstrating in the streets, demanding accountability from the elites and engaging in civil disobedience if that is what it takes.

    On a personal basis I am making energy efficiency improvements to my home and lifestyle. You can help climate scientists by participating in a BOINC distributed computer project by running climate models from I am cultivating my own 15 acre patch of tall grass prairie which is one of the rarest ecosystems in North America, home to rare plants, birds, insects and butterflies. I am doing this for future generations so that they will have something left to marvel at. It is extremely important that we document what we have so that when we lose it we will know that it has been lost.

  90. erentz says:

    With you. And so are millions of others in our generation. We’re an army waiting to be called up to go to work to fix this problem, but no one is calling. There is no great world leader spearheading us to action. We’re at the mercy of the older generations that are in power. They are ignorant, selfish, and deathly-afraid of change. And they are a long way from relinquishing control. It’s depressing and there is nothing you can do, so fill your life with what makes you happy, build relationships that matter with people. Where you can vote for change, sign petitions, and hope for the best, but don’t waste your life worrying about things you cannot control.

  91. Ross Abbey says:


    If you’re looking for more short-term, concrete suggestions, here are a few.

    If you haven’t already, consider connecting with leaders in the “Youth Climate” movement, like RichardGraves (he’s on Twitter). There is proably more they could be doing with film, and much more they could be doing along the lines of # 36 tst’s suggestion – working to move an unmoved target audience.

    Film may be the key to _exactly_ what this movement needs: increased awareness outside the limited ranks of science & environment enthusiasts. An Inconvienient Truth reached the liberals, fine, but what movie will reach the conservatives & Repubs? You should make that movie. Or identify others who already are and support their efforts.

    Beyond the science and technology (bases already covered fairly well), this movement needs a heart. In needs stories, and storytellers, and you can be one. Have you come up with your personal climate “conversion story” yet? If not, get cracking. (For a good example, see

    Finally, there are plenty of other cool projects that you could contribute to, if you can spare time outside of your 9-5. For example, you could become the blogger who brings attention to the hypocrisy of advertisers that benefit from the images of threatened species without donating to thier preservation (see my for background info on the topic).

  92. Daimon says:

    Ian: I’m so happy to see so many young people so passionate about the urgency of change. Don’t believe those who say you have forever. Here are a few possibilities actually within your reach as a filmmaker who likes to work with people.

    Create a global collective of filmmakers documenting and educating on how to do things that are solutions, such as urban agriculture, organic gardening for absolute beginners, permaculture, building ultra-cheap very low energy consuming homes and other structures, city solutions that work, campaigns for local change that work, living a low-consumption but satisfying lifestyle, how to put together a community garden, how to do a renewable power co-op (everybody pools money to put in a solar collector system that sells to the grid and shares the profits) etc. The more people know such things are possible and see how it is done the more they can do them.

    Team up with the Transition movement to help identify these things (they have a US website as well as local ones, probably other national sites) and create a video dimension to the movement to identify and share the best ideas from all those engaged in doing things. Try to eliminate wheel-inventing by identifying and sharing the best ideas from all Transition efforts. Make such documentaries part of the Transition movement to accelerate it. Accelerating the rate of change is a good thing.

    See How Web Video Powers Global Innovation

    Organize a global blog with video interviews exploring how people in your position find meaningful work/action. Find the solutions and publicize them. Obviously there are many who share your feelings (as do I, at 61, and always have, see my blog for deeper ideas), and there are some solutions. Keep searching for those solutions and they will multiply (readers will tell you about them). Become a connector for ideas, projects, people and money to support them.

    If “1000 Awesome Things” can become the “best blog in the world” (Webby Award), then “Finding a Meaningful Life while Saving the Planet” can do the same (OK it’s a bit long).

    You’ve clearly touched a deep nerve here, even getting NYTimes attention. You could go global with this. Solving your problem can solve it for many others. You could solve your own quest (if you like these ideas) by documenting and working with people on the same path and be an onramp for many others. Turn your problem into a solution.

  93. MapleLeaf says:

    Dear Ian,

    I have not read the other comments here, so my apologies if this is redundant.

    First, don’t be too discouraged, all is not lost, yet.

    Second, my suggestion would be to use your talent and do what you do best and what you enjoy– make a cutting edge (but hip) movie or documentary which speaks to the science, shows what is happening now, and what the future probably holds. We need to reach out and educate people, inform them of where we are at and where we are going. People need to be reminded often. But keep the messaging grounded, no “Day after tomorrow” crap.

    That or partner up with someone to start a huge billboard campaign— not fear tactics stuff (people won’t buy that), but even a cool looking graphic of the global temperature record would be a start, together with a catchy and informative headline. Stuff like that.

    I’m thinking IMAX style (Gore’s documentary probably also needs to be updated soon to show the latest science)– fortunately, or unfortunately, the impacts of AGW/ACC are very visual and graphic, tonnes of material, just waiting for the correct messaging and format.

    Create an app for iPhones, iPad along the same lines. There are many possibilities for a young, creative and energetic person like you.

    In short messaging and communication is key. Here is a crazy idea, send the IPCC your resume/CV with a proposal– IMHO, they desperately need someone to generate flashy graphics and YouTube vids et cetera to communicate the science– and this will be even more important with AR5 around the corner.

    Keep your chin up and good luck!:)

  94. Louise says:

    Who has answers to dilemmas like this? But if I were to pinpoint a need that is as pressing any, I’d say that studying the mainstream media to find a way to beat them at their own game is right up top in terms of truly making an impact.

  95. LizzieA says:

    Hi Ian,

    Well, a group of us have decided to work within the framework provided by the UN and are selling the “bic pen” of solar lights into Africa in order to make significant inroads into reducing kerosene usage at a household level.

    I agree, it is not about chaining yourself to the whitehouse lawn (or in my case the lawn out the front of parliament house in Canberra), but about working where possible to make meaningful change.

    good luck :)

  96. jyyh says:

    I’m with J.Romm on promoting rail transport. It shouldn’t be a necessity to have a car.

  97. Paulm says:

    Climate Change is a moral issue!

    “Climate Ethics – What Are Our Moral Obligations to the Future

  98. Scatter says:

    As has been mentioned by a few commenters, join your local Transition Initiative and get stuck in to making real change happen from the ground up. If you don’t have a Transition Initiative near you, start one!

  99. pete best says:


    Looks like everyone has a slightly different take on this so lets ask you a few questions regarding ACC.

    Do you think it is down to individuals to do something about ACC or down to Government or down to all of us, both individuals and governments?

    If individuals then there you are: Start to do something yourself from growing vegetables, permaculture to looking at your energy expenditure and reducing it etc.

    If its Governments then its more tricky but you can get involved in grass roots activities.

    If it is down to both then get involved at every level.

    Western Europe with its 450 million inhabitants and North America with its 330 million have to lead the way. Sure we can all start to look at China, India and Asia as a whole and point a finger but historically (the first 100 ppmv) is down to us in the west and the next 100 ppmv is down to all of us so yes everyone needs to do their bit politically and individually.

    Its so hard I know – out world is fossil fuel engaged and enuff people in power do not see change coming easily although we do need the change and not just in our energy expenditure but probably in our attitiude to growth and our individual needs when it come to energy consumption and buying goods and services.

  100. Dan Miller says:

    Here’s what I posted on Andy Revkin’s blog:


    I think your thinking is on the right track. The challenge is to get the public and our elected leaders to understand the clear and present danger that we face. The science is well understood — and is being ignored. I had lunch with an Nobel-prize winning IPCC climate scientist last year. I asked, based on the latest research, what the temperature increase will be at the end of the century. The scientist replied “We’re all dead”.

    So the problem isn’t science, it’s psychology and communications. Humans only react to threats that are (1) immediate, (2) visible, (3) have historical precedence, (4) are caused by an enemy, (5) have simple causality, and/or (6) have direct personal consequences. That’s why the BP oil spill got so much coverage (it has 5~6 of the threat triggers) and climate change gets so little coverage (it has none), even though by any measure (people killed, animals killed, ecosystems affected), climate change impacts in 2010 were at least 1000 times worse than the BP spill.

    The media has failed us. They treat the 2007 IPCC report as the worst case and the deniers claims as the best case, so they think the truth lies somewhere in between. In reality, the IPCC report is the best case scenario and, based on more recent research, it is less and less likely that things will only be that bad. As someone else said, in the debate “2 +2 =4” vs. “2 + 2 = 6”, the truth does not lie somewhere in between.

    So, what to do? I chose to go around the country giving talks on climate change (see Unlike most environmental groups, Al Gore, and “green” business groups, I decided to not preach the “green is good” message, even though I completely agree that green is good (I invest in clean tech companies). However, that message gives a false sense of the importance of a low-carbon economy because it compares the “green way” to the status quo, so it sounds like its a 20% improvement. In reality, there will not be any status quo if we fail to go green. There won’t be enough food and water. There won’t be an economy. And there won’t be a United States of America. So wind power isn’t 20% better than coal power, it’s 1000+ times better. In my talk, I try to present a realistic (and, therefore, scary) view of the future if we continue on the path we’re on. I then lay out the simple (but not easy) things we need to do to address the problem. At this point, even if we go whole hog in reducing CO2 emissions, things will still be bad, but they can get much worse than bad if we continue on the current path.

    I suggest figuring out ways to force the media and public figures to face up to reality. I’m hoping for an Army-McCarthy Hearings moment where the country wakes up to truth that was there all the time, but was ignored.

    I would not follow Andy’s advice. There are many people that can and will build clean energy systems in Africa. There are far fewer that understand the climate challenge like you do and are willing to take risks to call attention to the need for urgent and dramatic change. I think you will figure out something interesting and effective to do.


  101. John Mason says:

    Interesting to look at the responses to Andy’s piece. I make no apology in quoting the first one verbatim:

    “So this is what alarmists are reduced to. Quoting random people who don’t give their real names who say ridiculous things without evidence. Andy, it’s over. Give it up. You won’t be the Duke of New York, or whatever title the alarmists promised you. You’re doing nothing but embarrassing yourself.”

    Doesn’t this strike you as having “Dinosaur” stamped all over it? It is mindless, negative, miserable. If 2011 stands out for anything, let’s make it the year in which people en masse become tired of thoughtless garbage like the above – let’s make it a year when intelligence comes back up for air, a year when people remember at last that “the environment” is not just some place they visit on vacation.

    Cheers – John

  102. Ian says:

    Hey everyone,

    I still can’t believe everyone’s wonderful support. I’ve read through all the great suggestions multiple times. Needless to say, I’m a little overwhelmed but I think I am closing in on something.

    Everyone may have disagreements and various opinions, but it is inspiring to see everyone band together for a moment. There is a great deal working against us but I hope everyone can see that there is hope left.

    You’ve all helped me in numerous ways so I can’t offer enough thanks. It might take me a little while to figure this all out, but I will keep everyone updated on what I decide. Thank you all.


  103. jcwinnie says:

    Cap’n, to whom do we send the distress signal?

  104. Ton says:


    I found some answers while keeping my mind healthy.

    Good lucky


  105. Andrew S says:


    The answer is simple, join the ARMY! preferably as an officer. In a few years as you rightly predict, civilization will be in danger and the Green movement will need real soldiers. Then instead of appearing as unemployed activist you will be a West Point Graduate.

    It will need a real army to enforce sustainable economy.

    Just an idea but i plan on telling that to my son (currently aged 4 so some time to go!)

  106. Raul M. says:

    How about a film.
    Some teacher explaining life from a podium.
    Me sitting at an aside chair painting a cheap
    hat using a balloon to keep the hat filled out,
    using energy star radiant barrier paint. when
    painted I take the extra hat, already painted,
    and walk it to the teacher, saying it’s hot out
    there, leaving the freshly painted one to dry on
    the balloon. I leave after the teacher says

  107. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Make you own decision. A real decision not one by default.
    We can offer you all the ideas, choose what works for you.

    My own inclination is to move, become self sustaining. But I would go alone. How can I expect to convince the world of the dire nature of what faces us, when I cannot convince my family. So I will have to work on where I am now.

    Looks like one way or another, we are all in the same boat.

  108. Dr. Wiggly says:


    Here’s my idea for you. We are all frustrated by our inability to change people’s political and ideological attitudes. But underlying these divisive attitudes is one on which I think we all agree. We would all like to have a happy future in which we can have plentiful energy to live modern, high-tech lives.

    There is no fundamental barrier to this sort of future. Our environment contains vastly more energy than we use, even in our currently wasteful mode. Just in enhanced geothermal energy alone, the 2006 MIT study concluded, “Even if only 2% of the resource were to be developed, the thermal energy recovered would be … roughly 2,600 times the annual consumption of primary energy in the United States in 2006.” Similarly large energy resources reside in wind and solar.

    There is no fundamental, insurmountable problem. In the words of the Damn Yankees song, “There’s nothin’ to it, but to do it.”

    If someone can communicate this realistic, achievable option to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy to enough of the American public, I think that vision would overcome the political, ideological, and corporate opposition to moving forward. How about that as a task for you? If you convince the American public that this bright future is really in their grasp, the rest will follow.

    I don’t mean to suggest that injecting this idea into many closed, unimaginative minds would be easy. If it were, then I would use my plodding prose, my nerdish way of thinking, and my artistically challenged images to do it. Maybe you and artists like you can make The Movie that changes everything. It’s not easy, but it sounds like the kind of definite challenge you’re looking for.

  109. tst says:

    Dan Miller at #102 – Thanks for one of the best comments in this thread. There’s been a fair amount of encouragement and empathy for Ian, but not much in terms of concrete advice. I’ve also been struck by the number of commenters who seem to think we’re on an unlimited timeline, and that what Ian does 20 or 30 years from now is going to have an impact on climate change. Our window of opportunity is short, and getting shorter every day. If Ian is going to make a real difference, he needs to do so now.

    A question for you. When you give your climate presentations, do you typically tweak your framing to target the group you’re addressing? And what have your results been? We have to move the needle a great deal in the next 3 or 4 years and I’m always looking to refine my approach.

  110. Mike Roddy says:

    Ian, again:

    Dan Miller is a great resource, and so is Peter Sinclair, the Climate Crock of the Week film producer. I suggest that you contact both of them.

  111. Roger B. says:

    I think a good idea would be to make a video like “Gasland” but about what is happening in northern North America, and Siberia if possible, now due to rising temperatures.

    If you haven’t seen “Gasland”, I would highly recommend it. It deals with the natural gas extraction technique called fracking. Natural gas appears to be coming up all over the place due to the technique not just where they pump it out.

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  112. Susan says:

    Unplug from the mother culture as much as possible; don’t feed the hand that bites you :-)
    Work locally: educate anyone who will listen to you.
    Form a group that educates.
    Learn and then teach the skills we need to survive in a fossil fuel depleted world.
    Grow your own food.
    Connect with others.
    Start a Transition in your community (
    Good luck. You are not alone.

  113. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I’m 25 and I had a lot of goals and dreams I wanted to chase but I’ve now given up on them because I realized our civilization is imploding.

    Ian…this is the same thing many people said back in the mid-70s. They were worried about over-population, food crisis, gas crisis, impending nuclear war, etc. Some of them refused to start families.

    I would say chase those goals and dreams anyway (unless, of course, they’re dreams of flying around the world in a private jet for a full year). Goals, dreams can be modified to suit the circumstances whereas if you just give up on those goals they can’t be modified at all (what’s that metaphor?–a ship at sea can be steered but a ship in the harbour, while safe, will not reach a new port).

    I’ve also been struck by the number of commenters who seem to think we’re on an unlimited timeline, and that what Ian does 20 or 30 years from now is going to have an impact on climate change. Our window of opportunity is short, and getting shorter every day. If Ian is going to make a real difference, he needs to do so now.

    Back in my first degree, there were a group of people who were saying the same thing (but not about climate change). They were advocating dropping out and getting into the fray now as time was short. One day a professor decided to address this issue and his metaphor was, If you’re going to cut down trees, you need to spend time sharpening your ax.

    In other words prepare yourself first. He also pointed out that it wasn’t an either-or situation. You can prepare yourself while also doing battle.

    My path has taken me into public speaking on the environment/sustainable practices, I’ve taught as a sessional professor (biology, chemistry, ecology) at university, and now I’m working on a popular science book that I wouldn’t have been able to write even 5 or 10 years ago (gee, an egghead who thinks he can write a book–way to break cliches). I’m trying to reach larger and larger audiences. If I had a film background, as you have, I would have used that to reach another audience.

    In general I tend to follow the advice given by Edward Abbey. It starts off

    “One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there.

    The rest of the quote, especially the last lines, will make you smile.

  114. Nick Bentley says:

    It’s heartening to see that so many people feel as the original poster does, not in the least because I do too. Although I’m a bit older (33), I’ve decided to shed my old professional life in search of a more sustainable one, and one directly related to battling climate change. I’m abso-effing-lutely bursting with ideas about creative activism, and I’ve started a blog which will cover them:

    If you’re interested in executing creative acts of climate change activism, *please* contact me (climatebuccaneer[at], and I can run through a bunch of possibilities for you, and discuss the possibility of collaborating on ones’ that interest you.

    I’m giving my life to this issue, and my enthusiasm is redlining. I think I can help guide those who aren’t sure how to start acting.

    Nick Bentley

  115. Dan Miller says:

    #111 tst: I do adapt my talk depending on the audience and the amount of time I have. The reaction is usually very good, but the talk does turn some people off, especially progressives! One of the worst reactions came when I gave the talk to a group of sustainability officers. I don’t think they liked that I was saying that reducing your company’s carbon footprint by 20~30% was not going to be enough. Though most people who choose to come to my talk are very accepting (except for the deniers), when I bring up the subject with people (mostly progressives) I meet in other situations, I get a lot of blank stares. People really, really don’t want to think about this.

    I shorten the message to a line or two when I have the chance to talk with a member of congress. Sometimes I just say “On the path we are on, the United States of America will not exist in about 50 years due to the impacts of climate change”. Of course, they don;t want to hear it either, but I’m trying to plant a seed in their head. Almost no one else is telling them this (certainly, not the Obama administration).

  116. tst says:

    Dan Miller @ #118:
    Thanks, Dan. Just dropped you a note at your site e-mail. I’ll look forward to your response.

  117. Daniel says:

    Dear Ian

    You’re a man in whom the instinct of self-preservation acts normally.
    Pursue your goals! Listen to your heart and don’t despair.


  118. spiritkas says:


    Along the lines of film making as Ian said he was intered in…I’d focus on creativity and use that to talk about all the good in the world. You could go around and document people like Dave Finnigan #40 responce on this thread and many other people doing good, clean, green work.

    1. You would make an incredible documentary about the strength of creative usage of resources to overcome the many obstacles our movement faces.

    2. You’d meet a tonne of people and in making the film you’d get many contact in and outside your field as well as expose yourself to the everyday people and everyday activities involved in the radical change being carried out in the pre-tipping point areas of green action around the county, state, country, or world.

    Too often I see a failure in creativity as the primary reason for inaction and stagnation. The solutions are out there and they are plentify and multivarious to an extent that everyone will be able to find a path they’ll enjoy. Not all of us want to be involved in agriculture or the inevitable distrubtion of the brain-drain from the countryside; we need smart farmers. But I’d guess that a good 10-30% of people will become more involved in agriculture as we cannot maintain the 1-2% of people current invovled in producing all the food. There will be a place for all sorts of lifestyles in the near-future, but consumerist processed food eater trading stocks isn’t one of them.

    Just one idea for a person interested in film. I have appreciated the other responces on here as much as I have in pondering the question of what I’m going to do with my 25 year old self.



  119. Debra says:

    The comments to this post have been the most intellectual and inspiring I have ever read anywhere on the internet. I have to tell you when I first read this post, I myself was depressed and struggling and I appreciate all the wonder advice given to this young man for it has helped me also! Thank you everyone and thank you Ian for posting!

  120. Iain says:

    Ian, you are on page, you have awakened. You have looked around and realized you don’t like this place anymore.

    Personally, you can only do one thing. Change. Actually reduce your footprint. This is essential. It doesn’t have to be much, turn the water off while you lather in the shower, stop drinking plastic water bottles, stop trusting corporations, read the ingredients in your food to understand what you are putting in your body (this is important), and I believe one of the most critical things you can do is shop local. Stop buying cheap crap from other countries…spend $5 or $10 or $50 more and buy local. Quality will be higher for sure, Bob the widget maker NEEDS to sell widgets, the corporation knows you’ll buy their plasgets.

    We are taken for granted as consumers so stop consuming. As you change, others around you will too. It is a voting system. Why do you think all the car makers are coming out with EV cars…cause we want them to. We drive the market, not them.

    What should you do? Live life, enjoy the planet, smell the roses, make a difference. Find your passion and get someone to pay you to do it. Above all, be sure what you do helps people or places.

    Environmental movements start with individuals, green economies start with one business, saving the planet starts with one act of kindness to mother earth, being content with oneself begins when one helps others, sustainability only begins with the individual.

    And trust me Ian, you’ll get paid in ways you never thought…the amounts will be enough to live, just in time most likely, and that’s ok. But you will get paid…

    Best of fortune

  121. adelady says:

    121 spiritkas. It’s not so much creativity, I feel, as lack of imagination. I have no creative abilities of any sort, but I do not understand people who cannot “see” that we could live lives much the same as now if we just used all that power whistling past us and shining down on us. Why dig up stuff just to burn it?

    Some older people can half “get” it if you talk about the wind power technologies we abandoned 80-100 years ago when we discovered “cheap” fossil fuels. Many of them are familiar, if only vaguely, with oldstyle windmills used for pumping and lighting and recharging batteries.

    Perhaps an approach that “time-travels” from the point of ‘choosing’ technology back at the turn of the previous century might generate some useful responses. What would be different, what would be the same, what would be better, what other technologies would we have developed to support a non-fossil fuel approach over the last 100 years.

    Someone who *is* creative might be able to do something effective along these lines. Esp in video, movie, personal presentations.

  122. Thank you, Ian, for expressing what so many of us have been feeling.

    Let me throw this idea into the mix for your consideration: I’m thinking we ought to get a group of disillusioned folks like ourselves and hike across the country. It would be (1) a “zero emissions” trek to protest against carbon pollution and consumer culture, (2) a way to raise awareness about the imperiled environment, and (3) something worthwhile and relatively dangerous to do with yourself for about a year.

    I’m not kidding. If you or anyone else is interested in this idea, lemme know. I’m thinking we leave in the spring of this year.

  123. Hughk says:

    Connect with like minded people using the various tools available. Meet with them. Work to build alternatives e.g. helping entrepreneurs get off the ground, backing projects that meet your world view through things like Kickstarter and Unreasonable Institute. In face the Unreasonable Institute is a very inspiring model. We need to pilot 1000 alternatives to the current systems, fail quickly and fail well, learn and ensure that we have the alternatives in place as the system begin to collapse. Combine transition towns with hackspaces and kickstarter models. There is so much hope out there. Don’t despair. Build it.

  124. Daniel says:

    I’m baffled at still how much people think in terms of army, power, struggle, forcing other people to undertand or do things etc : these are some of the concepts that droves us where we are, specially whden applied to our earth. They are part of an old paradigm and need to be abandoned.

    Search for the definition of “Unbuntu” and see how we are interconected. Tea partier are so close to us, in so many ways, that it’s more important to understand this and change things in us, before thinking of getting at them.

    The world, and specially the natural world we have to learn to live in, is non-linear. Not simple but complex. Trying live in itin a better way, without acknowledging and fully integrating this nonlinearity and complexity, is a waste of time IMO.

    Also, dig in you. This need you express to be somehow on top of the pyramid of power/visibility to reach efficency or whatever “good goal”, and to get there fast, is so westerner, modern, masculine… we don’t have to live like this. there are other realities. They are usually much more complex, diverse and slow in happenning.
    But they give result to a much fuller extent. They give worthwhile lives.

    So I would say join movements or groups of people which raise your enthusiasm and make you feel alive, and which have started seeing the world in a different way (transition movement is one). You can do the right things now, and also live a happy life now while doing these things.

    That’s important because you will never be 25 again, and so better spend these years (and the following ones up to 100), right here and right now,than fighting something in the hope of winning one day, and then being fine…

    One specially important advice I never saw : TRAVEL far and wide, and see the world. There is no way to understand it otherwise. USA are just one country in it.

    Links :
    Nature in its amazing complexity, and 4billion year R&D, may well have all (or most) of the answers !! : or (innovation inspired by nature)

    Bioneers is inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

    Climate change as a symptom

    Open Source Ecology

    A program to change the world initated by amazon indians who says they need to “change our dreams” so that they can change the dreamers (us) and stop them from destrying their land and civilisation…

  125. Megan Evans says:

    Hey Ian,

    Thanks so much for the question and to Joe for posting it. I’m 23, and have had very similar thoughts and feelings as you have had in the last year or so. I’m currently poised to go down the academic career path, but having misgivings over whether this is the ‘best’ option. Whatever you choose to do, try not to overburden yourself or you’ll end up burning out (not good). I don’t have any additional advice but I am gratefully lapping up everyone’s suggestions!

    You mentioned filmmaking – are you aware of the Growthbusters ( or Critical Mass ( projects? They might be worth a look, and are definitely at the ‘big picture’ scale.

    All the very best,

  126. Mike#22 says:

    Hi Ian,

    Great conversation you have going here!

    What the world needs is more and better science communicators. Or communicators who are conversant with the science.

    We also need more technology communicators.

    The problems we face can only be described with science. They are dire. The solutions which we have right now are terrific, affordable and cool, but most people don’t understand that.

    There are some excellent people out there doing this–there just aren’t enough. In my opinion society can change really fast under the right circumstances, so I think it is just a matter of reaching a critical mass, cresting a hill, finding the lever (write your own analogy). America seems like it is in a Dark Age right now, I know, but a lot of the world actually gets the climate issue, and that puts us on the front lines.

    Also, I detect a healthy current of despair in your original post. Things are dire–despair is normal–but don’t let it win. You may want to look at this:

    Stay cool.


  127. John McCormick says:

    Ian, you might be overwhelmed with the hundreds of ideas and some preaching about you next steps. I’m satisfied that you have benefited greatly, if only to know how we share your dilemma. Always good to know one is not abnormal or confused to the point of being stuck. Most of us are but we keep looking for that niche to scratch and fill.

    The end of timers and religious die hards who hold to the notion that the bible and their beliefs are enough to overcome anything we are telling them about AGW must someday be challenged to see the danger in their thinking. You have video skills and appear to have some writing ability. Might be an avenue to explore.

    Just a suggestion; hone in on the religious set and reach out to people who are challenging them to come alive and see the future is in their children and not in some wacky idea about the rapture. Find those smart people on the internet and contact them. Get a discussion going about how movies, sit-coms, video games, commercials, short stories, novels, etc. can be used to do some serious reverse propaganda. These people are being used by the Kroches and others who need these fatalists to resist any effort to change our lifestyle and consumerism because that would challenge their beliefs and comfort zones. Population control is a threat to the McDs and the Wallmart types. No mystery there.

    You and others could use visuals and story lines to show the dead endedness of end of times thinking. Tides Foundation is a possible for initial funding.

    You might have strong religious beliefs but you have already identified yourself as one who care deeply for the natural world. Use some effort to bring that love of nature to the religion believers. Its unplowed ground and worthy of exploring.

    John McCormick

  128. djrabbit says:

    Vern the Hobo Cynic @ 125:

    Your “zero emissions” trek across the country sounds like the topic of a great documentary!

  129. Melissa Meehan Baldwin says:

    Ian, I share your frustration. I’m 29 and I’ve been working on climate change education since 1999 when a college professor changed my life.

    I’ve spent too many nights lying awake in bed, worrying, thinking, and strategizing. What can I do to make a difference.? I think “If only people understood X” or “If only I could get the newspapers to write about X.” It’s almost more than I can bare.

    Working in the climate and energy field is full of frustration. The only reward is knowing that truth is on your side and you are not alone. (That and the brief moments of glee that occur when we make real progress).

    You mentioned that you are a filmmaker. Have you ever considered producing a film, or a series of short YouTube videos to address climate change directly? The movement needs more tools that are easy to understand and digest – things that the average American will understand and enjoy. (This is no small task).

    I work in Florida – you would think our state would take notice given that we are one of the most vulnerable in the nation to sea level rise, ocean acidification, and we are dependent on climate-sensitive industries for our livelihood (tourism and agriculture). But the battle here is far from over.

    I’ve started a series of four Climate Science Action Team Sub-committees – 1. Florida Climate Science Rapid Response Team (modeled after the national) 2. Climate Science Government Relations Team (to secure meetings with skeptic lawmakers); 3; Climate Science Communications Team (to identify the messages that connect). and; 4. Climate Science Public Education Team. I welcome your involvement in our teams.
    It is my hope that our communications team will produce PSAs or other YouTube educational videos that are smart, sexy and compelling.

    Keep dreaming, keep fighting, and never give up.
    Melissa Meehan Baldwin

  130. Agent99 says:

    Ian and Commenters,

    Are you scared for yourself personally (I am after reading Joe’s Veteran’s Day 2030 post!) or for the ‘planet’ or poor people or all three?

    If it’s for yourself personally (and possibly together with others in your generation) you might figure out WHERE you want to be living by 2030. Someplace that’s not on the coast or near the mega-droughts–maybe in a valley to shelter from the worst severe weather and with decent water supply. Think about how to survive when things get bad (and how to demonstrate low impact living in the meantime). This is not inconsistent with trying to help poor people or the whole planet–Learning about gardening can give you great ideas about making the world more sustainable. And nowadays you can do all sorts of professional work from remote locations.

    As for the rest, you have to ask yourself hard questions like how driven are you, how big is your ego, do you have hobbies.

  131. Anna Haynes says:

    Ian, have you seen the little PBS animation series “It’s all about Carbon” (link)?

    How about making videos with animations (or other “metaphor” illustrations) that make it easy to grasp climate&economics concepts that the general public’s not clear on? You could make a film of them, that science teachers could show in high school classes; then the kids could go home & educate their parents.

    e.g. the bathtub metaphor, showing how the [CO2] level keeps rising as long as the inflow from faucet exceeds outflow from drain;
    or Revkin’s equivalent metaphor of CO2 emissions as credit card spending;
    or some “metaphor” way to show…
    * how long our CO2 stays in the air;
    * Greg Craven’s idea that each of your political-will-building climate actions as a lottery ticket, where the prize is the world
    * Economics & how if you put a price on carbon, solutions will come;
    * animation showing how spreading political-will-building actions makes more difference than tend-your-own-garden actions
    * how early action makes a bigger difference than later action;
    * a way to get across to the public Hansen’s idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax/refund, that “the sky belongs to all of us”;
    * how energy-efficiency improvements can [more than] pay for themselves;

    There’s *lots* of stuff like this, concepts that a visually oriented person could come up with ways to convey that’d be entertaining and easy-to-grasp – and thereby make a whopper of an impact.
    (plus look at the cascade of brainstorming that you’ve already triggered…)

    If you do videos like this, I’d want to see them installed in the Smithsonian, where they could reach hundreds or thousands of people per day. “Don’t just be the change, mass-produce it…”

  132. Anna Haynes says:

    Also – since you see the big picture – read – and contemplate – Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s essay On Time.

  133. spiritkas says:



    Perhaps it is semantics or I was just careless with my words. Anyhow I often write about a failure of imagination or failure of creativity and use them interchangeably. It is part of the frustration that can occur and/or a source of inspiration.

    We have the technology we need to get started and I have even see some amazing, imaginative, and creative solutions to accessing financing and creating different business models that can work to beat out the status quo. We need community and regional credit unions/charities to run as a new type of organization that funnels the good will and resources of community into an organization that is local, knows the people, and is able to take every $1 donated and ‘lend’ it out as $10 thanks to fractional reserve lending. It would be a machine to increase the efficiency of our houses by increasing the efficiency of our money! It could pay for a few staffers if it was at a big enough scale of say a whole county. The same way that the fed gov has created the federal reserve as an independent arm of government action, 2 lawyers and 3 community organizers, and 2 accountants/reformed banking folks could put this together and work out of a county initiative. It would be a credit union that could accept and utilize donations dealing exclusively with greening houses and efficiency projects at first and move into local decentralized power generation later. It is basically a set of garunteed payoffs.

    That is just one massive powerful social transformative idea. I’ve been an intellectual advocate for a while that the science and information community needs to get the tires on the road through creative and imaginative social structures. Professor at uni partners with big company and gets funding to privatize idea and sell it to make big money isn’t the path that leads to the outcomes we need. New ways of doing things are necessary, new business/life models, etc.

    I think it might not matter all that much exactly what any of us does exactly as long as it is in the direction of correcting our path that leads to runaway global warming. It might matter a low more HOW we do whatever it is we do.



  134. Dear Ian,

    It seems I’m a latecomer to this post, but I have no doubt you’ll check back.

    I thank you, as have the many others who also hear echoes of themselves in your words. I guess around five or six years ago I was where you are, asking just the same questions. And to be honest I’ve never stopped. Like many others I’ve read this comment thread as much for advice for myself as for you. I’m certainly at another crossroads now.

    But the thread has been particularly encouraging for me, as so many people have spoken of the Transition movement as inspiring them. I have been involved with that from the start, and ended up writing The Transition Timeline, the second book from the movement. It’s one of the things that gives me great succour, hearing from the many people who have been helped or inspired by my work.

    Three or four years ago I started my website,, and as you’ll see if you look back at the archives, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with it – I just felt the need to write, as you have here.

    But Neven’s comment at #69 above rings so true for me. I think the thing I’ve got most right in life is simply refusing to engage with things that didn’t feel right, or even with things that just felt ok. There are so many magical, incredible, unbelievable possibilities and people in this world and this life, and as long as I don’t fill my time with other things, I find them. Then all I have to do is overcome the voice that tells me that pursuing them is ridiculous!

    In 2005 I quit my job and resolved to learn to live as cheaply as possible, so that I didn’t have to spend time earning money for the sake of it, and could spend my time following my passions. That was a good call.

    Suddenly I had time on my hands, but I’m sure you too find that there’s never any shortage of interesting things to read or pursue (or interesting questions to pose on blogs!). And some of them lead somewhere. You follow them up and then, lo and behold, you’re spending your time pursuing your passions! Easy as that. I never really got round to going back to a ‘career’ :)

    The other comment above that really resonated with me was David Smith at #15, about focusing on “good”, rather than “less bad”. Spot on. It seems to me that in the predicament we’re in, lots of the people working to make things ‘more sustainable’ may actually be working to prop up an inherently destructive system. In other words “less bad” might even be more bad. I continually question my own endeavours on that same basis. And I agree with the few people who recommended Derrick Jensen’s deeply challenging book Endgame. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but he certainly helped me clarify a lot for myself. An important one, and very readable.

    Anyway, I know of some other words better than my own, so I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes:

    “Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest
    than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities
    in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”

    – Wendell Berry

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
    – Howard Thurman

    (I come most alive when I dance, and I don’t let anything get in the way of that. That keeps me sane, and then I am in the right place in myself to give back to the world)

  135. Jim says:


    My suggestions would be:
    1- move to Washington, DC and volunteer with Powershift, and the preparations for their April 1st national student climate conference.
    You might be working another job while you’re doing it & maybe even couchsurfing for a while.

    You’ll meet other young folks, be exposed to many niches, and find one that works for you. It’s only 70 days until then. And of course you should be at Powershift.

    2- Take a permaculture course. Good 14 day overview of meaningful, personal ecological design. Most folks who’ve taken it feel it’s one of the best courses they’ve ever taken.
    And look for or start a Transition Town group & read The Transition Handbook (#80, #94, #100, 114, #137 above– detecting a pattern?)

    3- Read up on the long history of positive change. Many people have one year of experience 30 times, rather than 30 years of experience. Hochschild has a book on the abolition of slavery; Wittner one on the anti-nuclear movement 1945-present. The anti-tobacco movement has succeeded against the odds. (If reading books contradicts point 4 below, then don’t)

    4- Build on your strengths. Sounds trite, but it’s so easy to get peer-pressured into doing things we’re not meant to be doing.
    Some people are dramatically better at gardening than they are organizing community gardens; and vice versa. BC Hillway has some good comments on this at #26 above.

    5- Don’t be misled that you need to work your way up. Meaningful change always starts at the fringes.
    Conversely, don’t be afraid to work in conservative careers. This country could use honest bankers who know the nuts and bolts of banking to start new credit unions, or green chemists who could re-design our laptops.
    Did any of your relatives gift you with Shop as Soulcraft?

    6- Don’t go to grad school, and certainly don’t go into debt for it, until you read DIY U by Anya Kamenetz.

    I use gmail– feel free to write me at canweyes
    – Jim
    PS- I just read through all the responses. We don’t have too many eco-films, we have way too few. Can you conceive of a 3 minute film that moves the ball forward on an issue you care about? I’m good for $50 if you have a good proposal. I’m sure others on the list might be into that as well.
    PPS- If you want to stand out from other 25 year olds, respond to email and phone calls within 72 hours. Sadly, you will move to the front of the pack merely by doing this. Not tweets or text, but phone or email.

  136. Meg says:

    I’m in my fifties now and looking back I see my life in terms of a gently upward curve of engagement and understanding – which I guess is as much as we can hope for within society in as a whole given that the curve of civilised action and behaviour is also, generally speaking, upwards certainly when you compare it with values and attitudes within previous generations. I do not subscribe to any ‘golden age’ myths; that is to say that a previous generation had got it right or was in some way intrinsically better than the one we live in.

    Further to that each age has had its challenges and its potential for darkness and annilihation. I think back to other sources of deep pessimism about the human condition and its fate: a previous oil crisis; the nightmare of Thatcher; Northern Ireland; CND; Vietnam; Cuba; Kennedy; and before that Hitler; and before that WW1 and before that… It’s worthy of note that good prevailed and prevailed not just because of great statesmen or of deeply committed and worthy individuals but also because ordinary men and women understood and supported the prevailing moral alternative. Each of us has influence far beyond what we can measure and though this may be invisible we need to continue always to exert it – for look what has already been overcome.

    In the current crisis we aren’t there yet. Many do not believe there is a crisis and I fear it will require more disastrous events to take place before there will be the critical mass for deep change – such as what will happen now in Australia. But I sense that the wheel of the Titanic is impacting upon our direction in this matter. My personal view is that we will scrape the iceberg but I have enough faith in humanity that though we will not necessarily come out of it unscathed or with the same structures (and this may be a very good thing; a very, very costly opportunity), we will avoid absolute destruction.

    Keep working, keep influencing and keep the faith that we will eventually preserve the human habit of pulling ourselves away from the brink of disaster – as we have done in the past.

  137. dp says:

    sometimes people think in terms of armies because they are under attack by a powerful organized force, and their existing defenses are built of vague promises made by vultures

  138. Diggitt says:

    I am in my mid-60s and studying for the ministry. I thought of all the ways that I, personally, could increase my effectiveness re sustainability and transition, and I decided that increasing the public perception of the moral issues was what I would be best at.

    There is always a need for the prophetic voice. It isn’t given to everyone, but if you are seen as such a person, finding a way to strengthen your voice is valuable.

    There is also a need for public, political engagement on a local level. I was an elected official when I stepped down to come to div school. If you blow off all elected officials as hacks and pickpockets, you a) malign sincere, hardworking people and b) miss a powerful part of American society.

    The feds are impossible to change from where I stand. Dealing with the president of Exxon is not likely to happen to most people. But, in fact, local, regional, and state governments is where the real effective action is going to happen.

    Many of these, in cities and states, are already activating themselves. Google your city or county or state to see what it is doing for sustainability. And become active in your local party. Local political committees are ALWAYS looking for fresh blood. Sometimes you can join your local committee and become a district leader within a year. Yes–this means you have to do a lot of door-knocking and phoning and going to events and meeting your neighbors–like that’s a bad thing? It can mean you’re being yourself, except with a specific and deliberate focus.

    If you just can’t bear dealing with political parties, see if there’s a local League of Women Voters (men too). If your local league is too stodgy, get some of your activist friends and ALL of you join and be willing to work. The LWV has a good name, a grand history, and a state and national presence and access to resources that’s enviable.

    One shift is important to make in your thinking when you’re in your 20s. That is, that now you are accepted as an adult and you really can interact as a peer with other grownups! Yes–there will always be those people who whine “But we’ve always done it this way!” or “We tried that and it didn’t work” and that’s why you need to reach out to other like-minded people and bring them with you. The goal isn’t to take anything over, but to become an energetic voice on behalf of your goals and engage the already-existing group of activists into accepting those goals. You don’t need to start anything new if you can effectively mobilize the talent that’s there, accustomed to working in your community.

  139. Lazarus Cato says:

    The growth industries into the future will be: green tech, mental health and aged care. So you might want to consider employment in those fields, or any other field that doesn’t contribute to corrupt system.

    Secondly you should spend your time and money in the context of this, consider every cent you spend and every second you spend as a vote toward the direction you wish to see the planet travel in.

    So, boycott, divest and sanction that which you are in disagreement with, and actively contribute your time to bring about change.

    Some quick things I would say:

    Take all your money out of the bank
    Buy fair trade
    Buy Biodynamic/Organic food
    Put your children through Steiner/Waldorf education
    Regularly attend protests
    Read instead of watching TV
    Spend time in public spaces (parks, libraries etc)
    Petition your elected representatives
    Get an electric car
    etc etc etc

    Time and Money, tik toc tik

  140. Jeff says:

    Dear Ian,

    You are doing it now. Do you see 144 responses in 4 days. We have the ability to use our voice, beliefs, and passions to make a difference. Technology and the time make this stronger than ever. Use you voice my friend.

    If you truly believe in what you say, speak with conviction, and have ideas that could potentially move masses then speak them. Mankind with the help of our creator will take it from there.

    You see you are not the only one feeling this way. There is a global awakening of the masses. This is blind to cultural and societal views. People all over the world are feeling the same way.

    Political powers are making peace, there is a global effort to help the world, there is a technological revolution that is larger than any previous and we are aware of the possible future as never before.

    As a mass we are uniting together. For we are people with righteous hearts. We are people that stand for freedom and good. People that support different personal, cultural, societal, religious beliefs. We may not agree but we can understand and will no longer use force to project our beliefs on one another.

    For if we use the words of wisdom from our history and our new awareness of the future they are exponentially stronger than force.

    We must understand one anthers shortcomings. We must work together to express views that are congruent to our future. We must not let idealistic views of the pass inhibit this. We must work together our species future prosperity, or world demise does not recognize race,government, or religion.

    Great world leaders and successful businessmen will only partially be successful if they use their positions for selfish fulfillment. The great world leaders will step up to the beckoning call.

    I pray the leaders of faith of the world will except each other despite different beliefs. That they will project their faith with the righteousness of heart. Not the despise of their eyes of a fellow mans belief. That we can understand how another man may have that faith and may be as blessed as us in their own way. That we can learn and grow from one another. That this is detrimental to our survival as a species.

    We have entered the era were we are aware of how we should proceed. We are aware of how we should treat our fellow man. We are aware of our Earth. We are becoming aware of what will happen if we do not use this awareness for righteousness. My faith in mankind knows that we will do everything in our power to not only secure the future of our species but to make our creator smile as well. God Bless Us All

  141. Brian says:

    I remember being in your shoes when I was in my mid twenties. I strongly believed that the current paradigm of mass consumption was environmentally unsustainable. Even more importantly, I believed that it didn’t even achieve its stated goal of making people happier. The problem is that once you have rejected the dominant paradigm that drives the US economy, it becomes hard to find a job, and since many of your peers have been educated in this paradigm it can even be hard to find like minded people (depending on where you live). My solution was to turn my activism into a career.

    I think that my advise will echo what several others have said. I strongly believe that you need to know your own strengths if you want to be effective. Almost all schools have a career counseling service for students and alumni. If you have access to these services I would recommend taking some of the personality tests that they offer and thinking about the results carefully. Many of these tests are also available on line or through other sources, but it is best if you can talk to a career counselor.

    Are you good with details or are you better at the big picture? Are you good at dealing with theories and ideas or do you see the world in concrete terms? Do you enjoy organizing events? Are you artistic? Knowing the answers to these types of questions is an important advantage for anyone looking for ways to make a difference. Career counselors are trained to help you answer these questions.

    Perhaps more importantly, keep seeking advice from people. You can see that people respond, because most people are fundamentally decent and like to help others. You may find that some people actually have volunteer or even paid positions that need to be filled. There is nothing more empowering than getting involved in making a difference.

    Hope this was helpful and good luck!

  142. Patrick says:

    A great discussion, for someone a little older than Ian (30) who still grapples with these issues _very_ frequently.

    I will try and reflect briefly on my own thinking & journey around these issues. My own serious efforts started back in 2007 when I quit my fast-track but all-consuming job in scientific software management to pursue a degree in Urban Planning – since it seemed to me the design and planning of our cities seemed like a key aspect of addressing climate change & other environmental issues.

    The short story: there’s no easy answer and I find you just keep asking the hard questions, reflecting, and trying to move forward. Similar to the previous poster Brian@144, once you become a personally committed critic of dominant status quo paradigms, getting comfortable jobs becomes more difficult. For example after topping my class in urban planning & hearing lots of talk about the need for people to help in the sustainability transition you would think I’d walk into a great, effective role – but no, I now realise that while there _are_ opportunities in planning to make a better world, it will take hard work & determination to find a role that isn’t very compromised by the demands & ideologies of the status quo like “eternal growth”.

    As you can see by the posters here, we all have to chart a hard path between difficult alternatives – and even between those of us who agree on some key issues (eg that climate change is a pressing problem), you’ll have to think critically about the rationales & ideologies behind different movements. E.g. in my case and it sounds like yours too, while I see the good in people aiming for “personal eco-sainthood” and people trying to disconnect from the modern industrial world and form permaculture villages out in the wilderness, I don’t think they’re the answer for the majority of us – particularly for those of us under 35.

    I agree with the general tenor here though – develop your strengths, network and co-operate with the like minded (while not abandoning critical thinking and developing your own view), and mix education & practice.

    In my case, that involves mixing urban planning & sustainable design ideas with projects in participatory democracy and the kind of information sharing the open source software movement espouses. In the last year I’ve also found the “Political Economy” discipline very helpful for understanding & critiquing how society works and thinking about how to change it for the better. But for you the ideal tasks/roles could be very different to these.