How We Can Bring Climate Change To The Forefront With Social Media

by Rebecca Schuh

There's plenty of debate over whether or not social media activism is effective.

To some, sharing statuses or making videos is nothing more than "slacktivism," or taking the easiest route to pretend you care about an issue when, in reality, you dedicate very little of your time and energy to it.

On the other hand, social media helped #BlackLivesMatter organize a pervasive movement.

I can see both sides of this issue: A few years ago, when Invisible Children was in Internet vogue with the Kony video and movement, I was frustrated many people thought changing their Facebook profile pictures was anything close to productive.

But, recently, I've come to see how great the Internet is for spreading information that might, otherwise, only be accessible to people who are in intellectual environments.

Whatever you believe about social media's role in activism, it's now impossible to deny the Internet and various forms of social media have the power to bring light to certain issues.

Most recently, we've seen social media activism take hold in the debate over anti-vaccinators.

People took to Twitter and Facebook to proclaim their views in eloquent ways that brought new light to the issue, forcing those who had never thought about the issue to reflect.

Some of my Facebook friends, whom I'd never known to care about the vaccination debate, shared emotional statuses and interesting articles.

The presence of the issue on the Internet forced people to take notice, and it became clear the more people discuss something, the more media sources will explore it.

But, why aren't we doing this in regard to climate change?

I make it a point to post about the issues I care about; the ones I find most important are sexism and climate change.

When I post an image or an article about sexism, usually 30 or so people like it and sometimes, people repost it. When I post an article about the environment, usually the only person to like or share it is my mom.

This doesn't make sense to me. My friends are people who, generally, know more about the environment and climate change than I do. Why can't we bring the same fervor to climate change we do to other issues?

Of course, people care about vaccinations; they don't want horrible diseases to resurface.

But, at the rate we're going with carbon emissions, oil pipelines and rising temperatures, the effects of climate change within our lifetime will be catastrophically worse than the prospect of measles resurfacing.

It's not about the accessibility of information. There is no shortage of books that explain the environmental crisis in ways that even the non-science-minded can understand.

I practically failed high school biology, but every word of "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein made terrifying sense to me.

Yes, it's hard to pin down people who have short attention spans to books, but there are constantly published articles on reputable news websites about how dangerous the battle against global warming is becoming.

It's all easily accessible, and no resources sugarcoat how dangerous it all is; how society-altering climate change will be. And, yet, the environment gets none of the Internet attention that anti-vaccinaters or the color of #TheDress do.

I can guess some of the reasons why the environment isn't blowing up on social media: It's easy to deny climate change; some people have made entire careers of it. If you do read the scientific articles and books, the implications can seem too scary to even confront.

There aren't easy solutions, and sometimes, it all just seems too big and terrifying to think about for more than an hour.

In short, the reasons people avoid this issue are pretty much endless. But, that won't shift the fact that climate change is happening, and people aren't talking about it.

We need to stop ignoring these issues because they're too hard to confront. We've seen Millennials use social media activism for good and for stupidity; now, it's time to turn this attention to the environment and climate change.

As individuals, we may not be able to stop carbon emissions or interfere with the power of big oil, but together, we can use the Internet to do what everyone already knows it is capable of doing: bring popular attention to issues that matter to us.

We may not be able to make decisions about the environment, but if climate change becomes a true part of the daily public discourse, the people who do have the power may stop ignoring it.