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What's Your Role In The Climate Movement?

There’s no perfect activist. Taking action looks different for everyone, here’s how to find your ikigai.

According to a survey, 8 out of 10 Malaysians are either worried or alarmed about climate change (1). We are bombarded with news on the worsening of our worldwide climate crisis, Malaysia being no exception. A lot of the time, thoughts like “What can I do?” “The climate is getting worse, it’s hopeless,” or “One person couldn’t possibly change anything,” are constantly buzzing in our minds, but in actuality, each one of us have our own part in the climate movement; all are essential to have a successful movement.


Climate movement: what exactly is it?

It is a social movement, where a collective form of social behaviour is explicitly organised for political action on the climate crisis. It involves the process by which human and material resources are mobilised in trying to affect political change. (2)


Why is it important?

Human activities are what lead to climate change, which is endangering both our way of life and our planet’s future. We can create a sustainable future for everyone by tackling climate change. If climate change remains ignored, it would undermine much of the developmental progress accomplished in recent years. As we can already see, it may also make present dangers like a lack of food and water even worse.

In the climate movement, it is crucial to have diverse groups of individuals with their own roles to facilitate the movement. But what are those roles, and how do I know which is suited for me? First off, it is important to ask yourself these important questions:

"What brings me joy?"

Seek what makes you excited and what you are passionate about, because neglecting it will cause you to experience burnout. We do not want to be draining ourselves!

"What am I good at?"

Acknowledge the skills that you have; be it writing, videography, or networking. If you are good at writing, you can help by creating catchy phrases or writing articles for local blogs or any environmental organisation. Doing translation is also very helpful, as it can be used to reach a wider audience! Graphic designing is also essential for organisations in order to create social media posts or posters. If you are a beginner at designing, worry not! You can use sites such as Canva as a starting point for your designs. If you have the expertise (such as climate/environmental science, legal, advocacy, etc.) that can aid the organisations, do lend a hand on their content production. You could give feedback on what they have done, or if you have policy-making or legal background, you can help them with their policy proposals.

"What is the work that needs doing?"

What climate & justice solutions do we need to work with? There are a lot of roles that play their parts to reach those solutions. As mentioned before, if you have the professional expertise, your input will help a lot in their projects (such as policy proposals, publicity, etc.)! Oftentimes, these environmental organisations require financial sponsors to carry on with their movement and publicity. Funding is important for them! So, you can always reach out to them, or see if they have a donation platform on their website. This would help to catalyse their work. Other than that, you can always use your social platform to share the organisations’ posts and spread their content to your audience. Kate (@byobottlesg) has made an Instagram post that explained this very well! 

It is also important to note that there are different roles that play a part in the climate movement. Are you curious to see which role you could take on? According to the ‘Four Roles of Social Activism’ by Bill Moyer (3), the types consist of…

Role 1: The Advocate

The advocates are what Bill Moyer termed “the powerholders”, where they are the ones who can make changes to policy and practice. They urge solutions with radical actions.

Role 2: The Helper

Next, we have the helpers who are inclined towards being involved in the direct work itself. For example, they would act on climate issues by weatherizing homes or establishing solar installation co-ops, to combat carbon pollution.

Role 3: The Organiser

The organisers are the ones that gather like-minded people and form a team, for example, starting a nonprofit organisation. They are firm believers in the power of numbers that can lead to change and to lead a movement.

Role 4: The Rebel

The rebels would create a commotion when they see injustice happening, which can influence the powerholders to make a change.

Finding a role that suits your purpose is the best start for you to get involved in the climate movement. Regardless of your background, occupation, or skillset, we can all play our part in accelerating the movement. No one aspect is more important than the other. Let’s start with ourselves and make a change for the better; for the future of the planet and our future generations!



[2] Jamison, A. (2010). Climate change knowledge and social movement theory. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1(6), 811–823. doi:10.1002/wcc.88