Climate activist Lena Hartog '14 releases a new book

'Wat jou te doen staat voor het klimaat'

© Dirk-Jan van Dijk Photography

Driven by the urgency of the climate crisis, Lena Hartog, a passionate climate activist and author, has dedicated herself to empowering others to take action against climate change. In her new book Wat jou te doen staat voor het klimaat, Hartog provides a step-by-step plan to make a difference through small and large actions at different levels: in your own life, in your immediate environment and in society as a whole.

What inspired you to become a climate activist, and how did your time at UCU contribute to this journey?

The turning point for me was when I realized the climate crisis was not just something in the future and not just something for people who care about nature. That realisation hit me when I was travelling together with fellow UCUer Mikki Korodimou and she inspired me to read This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein as she was preparing to organize the first UCU Sustainability week. Klein explains the relationship between capitalism and the climate crisis and helped me connect the intricate links between Business as Usual, social inequality and the ecological breakdown. The interdisciplinary lens I've learned to take at UCU has helped me in understanding the climate crisis as a symptom of a larger existential crisis rather than a separate problem - which doesn't make solving it easier but gives a more honest view of it's complexity.

What challenges did you face in bringing together your personal experiences, scientific research, and practical advice to create a guide that readers can easily engage with and act upon?

I wanted to write this book for a mini-me, for what I would have liked to know when I started wondering about my role in the crisis, but also for the other large majority of people worrying about the climate crisis. 75% of Dutch citizens share that they worry about the climate crisis but there are also plenty of things they don't share: from their age to their political preferences. To write something for all of them I had to keep explaining everything I see in simple, accessible terms, while at the same time still honoring the complexity of personal and societal change. By adding concrete steps in every chapter that often consist of deeper reflection questions, I hope I can inspire readers to think deeper and act faster without getting overwhelmed by the facts. Not always easy but definitely worth it!

If there's one thing I hope to see, it's that people start finding each other everywhere, that we take the climate movement from the streets to every organization, kitchen table and boardroom.

Yellow striped book cover with black text that reads "wat jou te doen staat voor het klimaat"
ambo | anthos uitgevers

What do you hope people will achieve by reading your book and following its advice?

If there's one thing I hope to see, it's that people start finding each other everywhere, that we take the climate movement from the streets to every organization, kitchen table and boardroom. It's absurd and impossible to navigate a global crisis as individuals, we need to hold each other close, not just for action but to learn and feel together. I would love to see people bringing their friends, colleagues or whatever community they are part of together, pick a change they want to see in the world or policy they want to fight for and start experimenting with campaigning and organizing.

A message to UCU students and fellow alumni

Don't be afraid to challenge Business as Usual. Going to UCU gives you all the tools to become very good at critique the current system and fight for change, but also to thrive in the status quo and win your own place at the top of a rigged system. I would love to see more UCUers do the first - feel free to reach out if you have thoughts about this!

About Lena

Lena Hartog is an organizer, campaigner, and trainer with a passion for social movements, deep ecology, and economic transformation. She recently her book 'Wat jou te doen staat voor het klimaat' with Ambo-Anthos and is working on a documentary about economic transformation. Previous projects she co-founded include the Slow Fashion Movement and the sailing think tank Sail to the COP.