Guest columnist Sylvia Staub: The climate crisis — What you can do about it 

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Published: 9/6/2023 4:48:52 PM

There is a term that has been appearing recently in the media: “eco-anxiety.” This term is defined by the American Public Health Association (APHA) as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” It is also defined as feelings of hopelessness and despair, due to the gravity of the situation we are in, the feeling that we have a part in creating it, and the long-standing government inaction on the problem.

Because of my intense concern about the future livability of our planet — in other words, because of my own “eco-anxiety” — I often find myself engaged in conversation with people about their feelings and attitudes related to the issue of climate change. Their responses range from skepticism to outright denial about the reality of climate change to “I don’t know what I can do about it, so I try not to think about it.”

To those people, I often say: “There is a great deal of opportunity out there to get involved in addressing the problem.” At that point, depending on their response to that statement, and if they live in western Massachusetts, as I do, I might then tell them about the local climate activist group Climate Action Now (CAN), with which I have been working for several years.

Climate Action Now consists of several working groups; each group addresses an issue related to climate change. For example, there is a group that focuses on the issue of “climate justice,” that is, on the connection between racism and white supremacy and the disproportionate effect of climate change on poorer communities, which are largely composed of people of color.

Another group, called “Farming, Forests, and Food systems,” focuses on protecting forests from cutting, since trees perform the important function of absorbing carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming. This group also focuses on education about sustainable farming, and the negative effects on climate of large factory farms.

There is also a group in CAN that worked successfully to prevent the building of a biomass plant in Springfield. These plants burn mostly wood to create energy, which pollutes the environment and emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, a major cause of climate change. This group worked successfully, together with other groups statewide, to prevent biomass plants from being built, not only in Springfield, but anywhere in the state of Massachusetts.

Another working group within CAN is the state legislative group. This group organizes constituent meetings with our local state representatives and state senators to inform them about climate-related bills in the state Legislature, and to persuade them to support these bills, so that the bills will be approved by the Legislature and become law.

I mainly work with this group and find the work satisfying, especially when we succeed in raising an elected official’s awareness and knowledge of a particular climate bill, and when he or she agrees to support that bill, thereby increasing its likelihood of passage, and becoming law. It’s my own small contribution to the work of addressing the global climate crisis. Anyone can go to the CAN website (ClimateActionNowWesternMass), find a project that interests them, and join in the work.

In addition to CAN, our local organization here in western Massachusetts, there are a number of nationwide climate activist organizations, all of which have local chapters across the United States, which engage in the important work of preventing further climate disruption. The major such organizations include, Extinction Rebellion, the Sierra Club, The Sunrise Movement, The Climate Mobilization and Declare Emergency. There also are two national groups that provide opportunities for older people to become involved in climate work. One of these groups, Elders Climate Action, has an active Massachusetts chapter. Their website is

The work that these groups engage in does not require any special skills or experience, simply the desire to devote perhaps a few hours a week to writing emails, making phone calls, or attending meetings on Zoom with fellow activists.

So, the answer to the question, “What can I do about the climate crisis?” is: Lots of things! Explore the websites and choose what draws you most at this moment!

Sylvia Staub lives in South Hadley.


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