My mom has a knack for giving pithy advice.

“Sometimes ‘no’ is a full sentence,” she’d say if I was taking on too many commitments. “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides,” she’d tell me if I was jealous of someone from school.

But recently, one of her phrases in particular has returned to me again and again.

“Just do the next right thing.”

Throughout my life, she’s said this to me every time I came to her with a seemingly unsolvable problem. An overwhelming week of exams, a sick pet, housing problems, relationship troubles, figuring out how to do my taxes for the first time -- the list goes on and on. 

No matter the size of the issue, she’d tell me to stop and focus on what I have control over. Sometimes that meant making a list. Sometimes it meant writing an email. Sometimes it just meant taking a deep slow breath.

My wise mother and me. Photo: Graham Marema.

I find myself revisiting my mother’s sage advice in the face of our ever-worsening climate crisis. There are times that I feel so overwhelmed and terrified by the scope of the problem that it’s sometimes hard to see how I could make a difference. 

I know the society I want to live in: one that doesn’t choke our oceans with plastic or ignore the threats of the future; one powered by clean renewable energy sources that protect our air, water and the special places of our world. But I find myself asking: “How can we possibly get there from here?”

My mom would reply: “Just do the next right thing.”

This phrase has echoed in my mind while I’ve been working on a new project with Environment America: One Million for 100% Renewable Energy. In some ways, this project is just a petition, the kind of which we’ve all signed a dozen times. We add our names to a list of people who care about something and hope our small action can make a difference.

But this project is also different. This petition isn’t just a list of names. It’s a community of individuals who have each taken their first action, who have been inspired to be part of the movement toward a more sustainable future, and who are ready to get involved. This project is a way for people to stay connected and receive updates on how they can move the needle toward the renewable energy society many of us believe in. It’s a tool to help supporters of 100 percent renewable energy figure out how to do the next right thing -- whether that’s calling on a legislator, attending a hearing, or speaking up a local city council meeting.

Or sometimes, maybe just taking a slow deep breath.

Every new person who is willing to take action not only brings us closer to our goal of one million supporters for 100 percent renewable energy, but closer to the vision we share of a healthy, sustainable society.

One Million for 100% Renewable Energy has quickly become one of my favorite projects to work on. It’s taught me that there is a cure for climate apathy, for that feeling of despair and hopelessness in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems. And It’s the same cure that will save our planet.

That cure is action.

We have the solutions to the climate crisis. Renewable energy is spreading across our landscape and powering more of our homes and businesses. Young people are striking in the streets, demanding immediate action to meet the moment. States and cities across the U.S. are passing transformative legislation, from banning harmful plastics like polystyrene to committing to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. There is proof all around us that action makes incredible, sometimes unbelievable, change.

For me, that’s the most important part of taking action: discovering you’re not alone. Every day I do this work, I meet another person who has faced climate anxiety and decided it couldn’t conquer them. That gives me hope.

Because the first step to solving climate change isn’t solving climate change. It’s taking whatever action is within your control right now. It’s doing the next right thing.

And then the next, and then the next, and then the next.

Learn more about One Million for 100% Renewable Energy and take your first action.