It’s time to go all in on climate action

I can’t sleep, or maybe it’s that I got up too early. It’s 3 a.m. and a good 1 to 2 hours before I usually get up. California is literally burning. We have no rain in sight. Colorado is burning as well, although they may have snow soon. Do you remember last year when Australia was up in flames and koalas were dying? Did you wonder what the Australians were feeling like? What were they doing? Well, that is us now. Literally in flames. It’s an interesting dynamic being Dr. Plastic Picker right now. For the last year, I’ve essentially done a mini-fellowship on environmental action. I have picked up #277 bags of ocean plastic pollution and salvaged now #1030 items in the process. And in the process of blogging and healing my body and mental health through plogging (picking up plastic and jogging) along the beach, I saw the state of the world most mornings. I finally looked around me and understood the broken food system that caused umpteenth tons of plastic to flow into our ocean, food that has very little nutrient value, while returning to clinic and seeing an entire generation of children with more obesity-related diseases. I try to gather plastic before it enters in the ocean because I know that the oceans absorb gigatons of carbon dioxide, while at the same time seeing my patients back at clinic who are mostly brown and black children suffer increasing rates of asthma from toxic air pollution. And as my body and mind healed from plogging and being out at the beach in the early mornings, I saw the stark reality of how sick our earth was. I decided to go all in to do my part to save the earth.

The fires don’t really bother me as much as others. I am obviously upset regarding the fires and the orange haze and poor air quality, but this is what we had known was going to happen back in the early 2000s. And it is happening. It’s the march of dire climatic events because no one did anything. I live in California, supposedly the most progressive and liberal state in the country, but in terms of climate action, we are not doing enough. It’s not a partisan issue. So even to those who live with me in this supposedly eco-hippy enclave, I want to let you know now – that it has been a lot of greenwashing. Remember AB 345, the gas and oil setback bill that died in committee due to Senator Ben Huesos? That happened in California. True climate action takes a complete shift in our thinking. I still work, and I still am part of this democratic capitalist society that I believe in. I believe that it has been co-opted as our democracy has by big corporate interest, that have very little interest in how you and I are doing. This is why AB 345 failed. Big Oil. And Big Oil is the same as Big Plastic.

There is a powerful Instagram community of litterpickers and plastic pollution advocates that is uplifting and positive. We talk about how the few thousand of us that are connected must #bethechange by our daily acts of environmental action. And even this positive community is in despair. Above is one of my litter picking friends, and he is a true friend, that noted the highest recorded temperature ever in Los Angeles. He posted a call to action. And I make the same call. As California is burning from historic wildfires, what will you decide to do? As your children ask you about emergency evacuation plans (as my tween did), how will you look them in the eye and respond to their concerns?

What did I do? I picked up two bags of trash yesterday and spread some native wildflower seeds in a barren area. I finished two advocacy projects yesterday, projects that I assigned myself. One project on plant-based eating in pediatrics, as decreasing our meat consumption is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change. I coordinated a video montage of five other pediatricians in an advocacy project for clean air and environmental justice. And I am such a normal person who is activated and within one year has accomplished so much.

So when I woke up at 3 a.m., I decided there is another thing I can do so that I can go to sleep soundly with my conscience intact. I did my monthly donations to Eden Reforestation Projects and Rainforest Trust. And I am trying to activate you. Activate everyone. They are many of us hidden quiet environmental activists in your midst. Reach out to us, and we can show you how to up your game. While our state is literally on fire due to climate change, what will you decide to do? I suggest you join us on climate action. Go all in.

Vi Thuy Nguyen is a pediatrician who blogs at Dr. Plastic Picker.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

View 6 Comments >

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories