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5 Ways to Be a Better Global Citizen in 2016

by Matt Hershberger Jan 4, 2016

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PEOPLE like you this year. People who see humanity not as separate, distinct groups which should never mix (and of which theirs is coincidentally the best), but as a single mass of people who are all in the same boat, who all have the same basic fears and wants. People like you — whether you call yourself a global citizen, a cosmopolitan, an internationalist, or just a chill dude who wants to live-and-let-live — are the people who are going to make the world a better place in 2016.

That sounds like a daunting task, but it’s not, really. There are 7 billion of us, after all, and the world is ours to make. You can do small things, here and there, and all of those small things multiplied by 7 billion will turn into big things. But if it still sounds daunting, here are a few more things you can do to be a better global citizen.

1. Get on board with fighting climate change.

Easily the biggest challenge facing our world right now is climate change. All of our other problems — war, poverty, famine, disease — will only get worse with climate change, and the window on stopping the worst effects of climate change is getting smaller by the day.

This is a huge project that requires global cooperation, but there are a few simple things you can do to help:

  • Get your home better insulated and turn down your heat and air conditioning this year. This is one of the biggest energy sucks in the home.
  • Eat less meat. Especially beef. Meat contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, so if you can, go veg as much as possible, and if you can’t, at least try cutting back. Try meat-free mondays.
  • Donate to green-friendly charities. Check out the ones on this list at Project Greenify.
  • Vote for politicians who aren’t in denial about climate change.

2. Fight global poverty.

There’s actually good news on this front: on a global scale, we’re winning the fight against poverty. It is far from over, but, as The Atlantic reported in December, this was the best year in humanity’s history for the average human. We beat the terrible ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone, we cut child mortality in half since 1990 and world hunger is on the decline.

But a lot still needs to be done. You can start by donating to charities like Give Directly, which just gives your cash straight to extremely poor individuals in Kenya and Uganda. GiveWell, an organization that ranks the effectiveness of charities, lists them as one of the most effective charities on the planet. You can also use popular microfunding sites like Kiva, or extremely effective charities like Oxfam. If you want to make sure you get the best bang for your buck, check out the charities on GiveWell, and also on effective altruism site The Life You Can Save.

3. Support global education

A smarter world is a better world, and unfortunately, many people — especially in the developing world — don’t have access to quality education. Unfortunately, as GiveWell points out, improving education in the developing world is an incredibly difficult process, and it’s a process that can’t be done exclusively from the outside. The only charity GiveWell has given their stamp of approval is Pratham.

4. Support women’s rights.

Women’s rights is a pretty great place to start if you want to bring an end to things like violence and poverty. Experts have found that when women in developing countries are given control of the money, they are more likely to use the money to life themselves and their families out of poverty than men are, and educating women in developing countries makes them more likely to avoid unwanted pregnancies and more likely to start making money on their own, breaking the cycle of poverty.

Oxfam has some simple tips for how to support global gender equality.

5. Vote.

For people who are American citizens as well as global citizens, 2016 is going to be a pretty big election year. By voting in the upcoming election — and by paying attention to all of the races and not just the presidential one — you’re participating in democracy and making your country a stronger place. Democracy anywhere is a good thing, and while voting alone does not a democracy make, it is a vital element.

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