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Fighting Climate Change: From the Global to the Individual and Back Again (2024)

Fighting Climate Change: From the Global to the Individual and Back Again (2024)

by Violette Dagorne

The climate change crisis we face is global. It is a “wicked” problem (Underdal, 2017) that requires a global response.

As an actor in this world, I want to believe that there are solutions. I want to believe in the possibility of a world outside a consumerist view that only values profit and growth. I want to commit myself to challenging climate change, since the outcome of today’s struggles will determine the future for generations to come, starting with mine. I want to be able to believe in an environmentally friendly system and economy, returning to the economy of nature. I want to bring back the values of ecology, humanity and respect at the heart of our political priorities.

But what can I do to confront the climate change, as an individual?

Individual Solutions are Not Enough, But Global Solutions are Not Working

Mitigating climate change demands a reduction in greenhouse gases, but individual actions can only reduce the carbon footprint by 25-30% (Dugast, 2019). Neither my vegetarianism nor my second-hand shopping habits will make a difference. As a 20-year-old eco-anxious citizen I cannot change the fate of the planet.

The international system is not able to resolve the current climate crisis either. The effectiveness of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) are widely disputed. The numerous Conference of the Parties (COPs) meetings on climate challenge follow one another, year after year, without bringing about the transformative change we need.

We will not get there by being timid, but by being demanding and radical in our expectations.

Our Responsibilities are Not Equal

We must begin with a recognition that while climate change is human in origin, our responsibility is not universal and equal. There are enormous differences in power between human beings and this means that a solution to the climate crisis demands a world that is more inclusive and respectful of all, a just transition.

For-profit companies are driven by the imperatives of short-term profits and the quest for growth (Nyberg and Wright, 2017). Shareholders prefer to focus on profitable “core business” concerns rather than longer term sustainability. Fossil fuel corporations are also major players in climate change, and their hegemony over our societies prevents any move away from a regime of “fossil capitalism”, where profits are the sole objective of the economy, even at the cost of a planetary climate crisis (Carroll, 2020).

Laws are not impartial or neutral but reflect the interests of the old colonial powers. International law favors the financial and trade regimes of the Global North, which are rooted in unsustainable economic growth models. This imperialist vision of international law must be reformed. The decolonization of international law, written by and in the interests of the then-colonial powers, is necessary (Mason-Case, Dehm, 2020).

Solutions Demand New Relationships

If the current system participates in the failure to act in the face of climate change, the crisis affects certain populations more than others, starting with Indigenous peoples and racialized peoples from the Global South.

Indigenous peoples play an important role in sustainable resource management, as York University professor Angele Alook (Alook, 2023) reminds us, acting as guardians of the environment: they keep 80 percent of the Earth's biodiversity alive. Tackling the climate crisis means respecting Indigenous land rights and involving communities in land management, since many First Nations around the world have unique relationships with their environment, rooted in traditional knowledge.

We need to turn away from economic models that are predicated on the unsustainable idea of economic growth. Gross Domestic Product may decline but quality of life can still improve (Mastini, et al., 2020). In short, challenging climate change demands a radical break with capitalist market-based economic relationships. 

Taking climate stabilization seriously means transformative change.

Artists help us too in grappling with the unprecedented threat that climate change represents. They help us imagine solutions, rooted in a world that is not just greener, but more just for all of us.

The Individual and the Global

Where does that leave me, as an individual and actor in the fight against climate change?

I can fight, but not alone. I need to work with and stand with all those – Indigenous peoples, climate change activists, degrowth scholars and artists imagining new worlds – who are committed to new relationships. A just transition will depend on all of us, working together, in this world that we share and that is now threatened by climate change.

Violette Dagorne is a third-year exchange student from Lille, France, specializing in political science. Her main areas of interest are climate migration, international climate negotiations and East Asian studies. She would like to continue her studies with a master's degree in environmental policy or in humanitarian and development aid.


Alook, Angele. “No More Broken Promises.” Pp. 15-35 in Alook, Angele et al., (2023). The End of this World: Climate Justice in So-called Canada. Between the Lines.

Carroll, William K. “Fossil capitalism, climate capitalism, energy democracy: The struggle

for hegemony in an era of climate crisis.” Socialist Studies/Études Socialistes 14.1 (2020).

Dugast, César, and Soyeux Alexia. « Faire sa part ? Pouvoir et responsabilité des individus, des entreprises et de l’État face à l’urgence climatique », Carbone 4 (2019).

Mason-Case, Sarah and Julia Dehm. (2020). Redressing Historical Responsibility for the

Unjust Precarities of Climate Change in the Present. [S.l.]: SSRN.

Mastini, Riccardo, Giorgos Kallis, and Jason Hickel. “A green new deal without growth?.”

Ecological Economics 179 (2021): 106832.

Underdal, Arild. “Climate change and international relations (after Kyoto).” Annual Review of Political Science 20 (2017): 169-188.

Wright, Christopher, and Daniel Nyberg. “An inconvenient truth: How organizations translate climate change into business as usual.” Academy of management journal 60.5 (2017): 1633-1661.