August 29, 2017 Jessica Wei

I Cared About the Paris Accord… Until I Checked My Facebook

Last week, David explained the dynamics and benefits in government-involved climate change policies, sparked from Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement. This week, I wanted to share my experience with the same topic of the Paris Accord, focusing on a factor that also leads to stagnancy in fighting climate change: how we as millennials and Gen Z are receiving information, and how it ultimately impacts our desire to take action.

It was 2 years ago, way back in 2015, when I was scrolling through my Facebook homepage and came across the ‘Paris Family Photo’ taken from COP21. More than 150 world leaders, representing over 150 different countries, gathered in Paris to sign the largest official agreement against climate change, all standing in neat rows for a panning camera. It was pretty surreal to see; never in my life have I seen so many world-renowned political figures squeezed in one frame.

For more photos, visit this article by the Guardian.

I flipped through the photo album on Facebook and briefly eyed the captions. And like a typical obnoxious high schooler, I took that small piece of information with me to my class discussions the very next day, pretending I knew every detail about the topic. By the time the bell rang and my lunch period began, COP21 was already pushed to the back of my brain.

It was almost 3 months ago when history repeated itself. I scrolled to an article on my newsfeed where Trump declared the United States’ exit from the Paris Accord. I clicked on the link, skimmed through the text, then promptly closed the tab and moved on. The feeling of frustration and anger for Trump’s actions flashed by almost as quickly as I shifted my attention to the next Buzzfeed video on my homepage. Needless to say, I brought the news yet again to my office the next day, and had it almost forgotten by the time I was on my train home.

As a self-proclaimed environmental junkie, I feel ashamed admitting to my easy dismissals of the topic. Why am I like this? Why do I have a memory threshold of a tablespoon when it comes to climate change? Is it because I don’t care enough?

After a considerable time of self reflection, I have come to realize how imbalanced my actions were to my interests. My passion for sustainability is inconsistent with my lack of active pursuit for relevant news pertaining to it. In other words, I needed to stop only learning about climate change from my newsfeed, and start searching for concrete information beyond the confines of my Facebook browser window.

Too many times have people dismissed paradigmatic events like the Paris Agreement simply because they are exposed to it exclusively on social media. We are a generation of people who grew up with the rise of digital media; while our parents actively sought out news in the papers, we are passively handed headlines and captions with each click of refresh. We aren’t the only ones at fault, though: in order to be relevant and capture more interests, news outlets are making a conscious decision to present themselves on an over-saturated digital dashboard of advertisements and mundane social posts. Doing so can generate a lot of site visits and click counts, but it feeds into a vicious cycle of providing information in shards, with the consumers retaining nothing at the end of the day. The fact that we know about something only when it’s trending on Twitter is not only concerning, but also irresponsible.

So you’ve made it to the end of the first blog post you’ve read about climate change in a long time. Now what? For starters, you and I both should probably close our Facebook tabs. Believe it or not, there are websites outside of the blue vortex that provide more in-depth insights to how people in our world today is both damaging and repairing our planet. Here are a few links to get you started on your active journey to fighting climate change:

  • If you want to know more about the Paris Agreement, Vox provided a short and sweet article to summarize what the document entails.
  • The Atlantic provided a very intuitive article analyzing the Paris Agreement document in a problem-solution format.
  • BBC recently wrote an article that provides a glimpse at a flaw in the system of the Paris Agreement in estimating energy consumptions.
  • Check out CEEC’s very own blog! Written weekly by CEEC execs, we give you a dose of the latest happenings in the sustainability realm, and throw in our own two cents while we’re at it.
  • And if all that wasn’t enough, here is a link to the pdf version of the 27-page agreement itself.

We are currently living in a time where climate change is as prevalent and urgent of a topic as ever, and a few Facebook posts and Twitter hashtags are not enough to solve it. But if your snap streaks and meme tagging are still at the top of your priority list, then I encourage you to work with the social media agenda. Share links to articles about sustainability on your own Facebook timelines; the more you share the things you genuinely care about, the more you’ll catch the eye of your friends when they scroll down their own feeds. Regardless of your stance on climate change, on COP21, or on the new president of our neighbours down South, you have the obligation as a global citizen to be informed.

We live in a century where the world is literally at our fingertips – it’s time to click our way out of 10-second cat videos and into a broader worldview.