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Breaking down barriers to climate inaction

2021 01 21 winter2Floods, forest fires, air pollution, and more. Most of us know that the planet is currently facing a climate change crisis. So why aren’t we doing more about it?


Unlike Texas that has recently felt the impact of climate change, Barrie and the Lake Simcoe area have been relatively shielded from the brunt of it, so far. For Living Green Barrie (LG), the city’s only registered environmental charity, that does not equal inaction. In fact, there are many environmental issues that Barrie and the Lake Simcoe Watershed currently face, yet numerous barriers exist that impede us from taking real action on these issues. For the scope of this blog, we couldn’t possibly cover them all, so let’s concentrate on a few key barriers.

Negative Outlook. It is a fair assumption that doom and gloom are the dominating feelings surrounding the issue of climate change. This negative outlook is presented to us on a daily basis in the media. Taking action on climate change isn’t all that appealing when we feel like our actions aren’t going to change the big picture of our “doomed planet.” Perhaps it is time to change how we frame these problems. We are living at a critical time in Earth’s history. We still have time to stop spewing carbon into the atmosphere and to end the worst effects of climate change for the future, but that window is closing quickly and that is a daunting feeling. Solutions to climate change already exist today, and that is something to be hopeful about. That feeling of hope can propel us to start making changes for a greener future.

Collective Action Problem. Yes, climate change is a problem that exists at a global scale and will require solutions that are global in magnitude. According to Robert Gifford (The Dragons of Inaction: Psychological Barriers That Limit Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, 2011), when individuals perceive this massive crisis as a problem to be solved at such a large scale, it takes the burden of action off the individual because it appears that individual action is too minor to make a difference. Individuals are what make up our entire population. Greta Thunberg is one person, and she is now a familiar household figure on climate activism. Don’t be fooled into thinking that individual action won’t change anything. Individuals elect representatives to tackle these issues. Individuals can invest and spend their dollars on helping the planet. Individual actions are seen and duplicated by others. This by no means gets the large polluting corporations off the hook for also taking action. It means that each of us has to stop using the collective action problem as an excuse for our lack of pursuit to better the environment.

Lack of attachment to place. What do you love about living in the Barrie and Lake Simcoe area? Some people were attracted by the green spaces and beautiful lake. Others may not feel that attachment to or respect for the place that they live. Many of us spend our days confined inside the walls of our homes, staring at screens, distracted from what is outside our front doors with no real connection to the environment. If we don’t feel a connection to our place, will we take action to protect it? Probably not.

A Few Solutions… Simply recognizing and understanding these barriers to climate action is a good place to start breaking them down. Living Green Barrie is working hard to be part of the solution on local climate change engagement. Formerly Environmental Action Barrie, LG is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, we have released 10 attainable actions that residents of Simcoe County and the surrounding areas can take to tackle climate change on an individual and local level. This month’s action, “Be Hopeful,” aims to create an optimism surrounding the issue of climate change. LG is offering a free screening of the environmental documentary, “2040”. The film offers uplifting and positive messaging, highlighting tools that already exist to help solve the climate crisis, and a glimpse of what the future of our planet can look like if we only start using these available tools. Watch it from the comfort of home until Feb. 28 by registering through LG’s website:

Blog written by Sarah Herr, Living Green Barrie Project Assistant, B.A. in Geography, University of Guelph, Ontario Master Naturalist, Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

Living Green Barrie’s mission is to guide citizens, businesses and local leaders toward actions that foster sustainability and resilience in our community. Let’s stop making excuses for inaction, start breaking down these barriers, and put Barrie on the map as a green city.

Photo by Tony Bellissimo

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