My new book, Green Rising, is a climate thriller inspired by movements like Extinction Rebellion. I wanted to write about teenage activists who have the power to make real, decisive change in the climate crisis. It’s something which makes us all feel incredibly helpless, and climate fiction is often a depressing, dystopian look at our doomed future. I wanted to write a more optimistic, hopeful path forward to a better world, with clear instructions about what we should be doing next to fix the planet.
When I was writing Green Rising, I became really passionate about doing something about climate change – but I didn’t know how to actually help make a difference! So much of the climate crisis is beyond our control as individuals. Change relies on large corporations making changes to the status quo. But there are some things we can all do to help – most importantly, to start conversations about climate change and raise awareness of how urgent the situation is.
People tend to bury their head in the sand about climate change, because it often feels so hopeless. But it’s important that we’re all aware of the politics and ethics of climate solutions, because they’re going to determine the course of the next hundred years on Earth.
I challenge you to do something from my list below, and use it to talk to someone – whether it’s with your family, employer or educational institution – about how they can make a difference.
I can’t wait to see how many points you can get and all the actions you might take!
Pledge not to mow your lawn (10 POINTS)
Make space for insects by letting plants like daisies and white clover grow. These will produce nectar and habitats for pollinators, frogs and small mammals. If you feel self-conscious about leaving your lawn ‘messy’, then try to mow a border around the outside or a path through the middle. Avoid using pesticides too. Find out more here.
Go on a charity shop clothes hunt (10 POINTS)
Disposable, cheap fashion pieces are a major contributor towards wasted energy. If you buy new clothing, it’s best to invest in long-term, quality pieces that can be worn for many years. Even better, try to buy second hand! Visit your local charity shops to hunt down some new clothes, and post your haul online.
Air dry clothing instead of tumble drying (10 POINTS)
Save energy where you can by letting your new clothes haul air dry instead of tumble-drying them.
Register to Vote (10 POINTS)
It’s important to vote in all political elections you are able to, and make sure your representatives are aware that your vote is based on their climate policy views. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can do so here.
Switch to LED lightbulbs (10 POINTS)
Energy efficient LED bulbs can save energy compared to halogen/incandescent bulbs. Get 10 points for every bulb you replace!
Go foraging (20 POINTS)
From mushrooms to blackberries, there are lots of edible foods available in hedgerows and woodlands. Use this calendar to see what’s in season in your area. You can pick up some litter along the way, while collecting wild elderberries or sloes to make homemade cordials and liqueurs.
You can even collect some wildflowers to dry or press. Use flowers to decorate recyclable brown paper, and wrap up a bottle of homemade sloe gin as a personalised, sustainable Christmas or birthday present.
Make a bird bath or wildlife pond (20 POINTS)
Use a shallow, watertight bowl, bin lid or plant tray to make a water source for local wildlife – and wait to see what comes for a dip. Birds, hedgehogs, bees and frogs will be grateful!
Donate old books to a school or charity shop (10 POINTS)
I don’t know about you, but my shelves are filled with books I know I’m not going to read again. Why not make someone’s day by donating them to a local primary school or charity shop? Show off your contribution with a #unhaul post. If you’re a book blogger, showcase the eARCs you’re reading via Netgalley – which all saves on postage and printing of paper proofs!
Build a bird box or insect hotel (20 POINTS)
Use a wooden pallet, broken bricks/plant pots, twigs and leaves to create a structure for insects in a cool place in your garden. If you’re more crafty, you can make a bird box out of recycled materials like plastic drain pipes, paint cans and even old boots.
Decorate your wheelie bin (30 POINTS)
Use your wheelie bin, front window or garden fence to raise awareness of the climate battle by using one of Extinction Rebellion’s downloadable assets. You can make a stencil to use with spray-chalk or emulsion paint, or print out stickers and posters (I’m a big fan of the Declaration of Rebellion). Of course, these are council property so make sure you have permission first. You can even create a mural – paint beautiful art with a climate-based message on a wall!
Distribute outreach materials (30 POINTS)
Go the extra mile by giving your stickers or posters to friends, shops and community centres, encouraging them to showcase their views too. Extinction Rebellion are hosting lots of events this summer to encourage climate activism (check out their calendar here).
Volunteer for Extinction Rebellion (40 POINTS) –
As well as organising marches and protests, Extinction Rebellion are always looking for creative people to help with outreach, from musicians to graphic designers, photographers and social media content creators. Artists can help by making murals, stickering, flyposting, stencilling, chalking, banners and subvertising bus stops or billboards. Find other roles: https://volunteer.extinctionrebellion.uk/roles
Make a change to your diet (30 POINTS)
Whether that means cooking with non-dairy butter, drinking tea with oat milk once a day, or only eating beef once a month, you can incorporate small changes into your routine that will make a difference over the course of a lifetime. Use this guide to see which foods are in-season locally, so you can avoid hot-house produce grown out of season.
Change to a renewable energy utility supplier (30 POINTS)
Many utility suppliers offer a tariff which uses renewable energy sources such as wind or solar energy. Check your supplier’s website to see how to switch – more information can be found here.
Speak out! (10 POINTS)
If you’re nervous of getting caught seed-bombing, you can still help by signing petitions like this one to rewild Britain’s national parks, or write to your local MP to encourage your council to rewild vacant land (check what your council is doing here). You can find government climate petitions here. Extinction Rebellion’s big goal for 2021 is to demand that the UK Government stop all new fossil fuel project investments – every voice will help make that happen!
Speak to your employer/educator (50 POINTS)
If you work in local government or in the private sector, then part of your pension is almost certainly invested in coal, oil and gas companies. Write to the trustee or convenor of the pension scheme to ask them to divest from their harmful default options using a template.
You can also ask for more sustainable practises within companies or institutions, such as only offering beef once a week in canteens, asking for more reusable materials to be used in shipping, or reducing the amount of business trips taken by employees. It’s likely they’ve not considered the harm being done through their actions while working in a business-as-usual fashion.
If you work in publishing, join Writers Rebel’s campaign for recycled paper to be used in book printing. They’re looking for people to help with editorial support, administrative tasks, investigative research, campaign planning, event organisation and project management.
While writing Green Rising, I founded the Climate Fiction Writers League, an organisation of over a hundred climate writers. I run this newsletter in order to encourage readers to take action. Talking about climate change to your social media followers, or founding a climate activism group in your workplace, can help make people reconsider their actions.
Good luck on your climate missions, fellow activists! Green Rising is about politics, standing up for what you believe in and taking direct action. But remember: no amount of careful consumption can fix an industry-wide problem. The carbon emissions responsible for climate change are largely caused by industry, and can only be reduced through government action. This fight has to start with policy changes, immediately. So the most important thing you can do is vote, and make sure you know where your money is going – at every level. While magic is fantastical, the ability of humans to fix the climate emergency is not. I believe we can make a difference: and I’m excited to see how you go about it.
You can find out more about Green Rising here.
Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is also a Creative Writing lecturer, freelance editor, screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors.
Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide, been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics.