Jan 22, 2018
Photo above: Teen climate activists at the 2017 Youth for Environment and Sustainability Conference
Recently, I rediscovered what it means to be a human being on this earth. This epiphany was sparked by reading a children’s book with which, I am sure, most of you are familiar. As I was reciting the verses of this story, and inherent love I felt for the Earth as a child rushed back into my heart.
This story tells the tale of a curious teenager, an environmental activist, and Counselor. This story is The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss.
How many of you read this as children? Do you remember how, amidst the playful rhymes and fictional language Dr. Seuss uses, he highlights very real, urgent environmental issues? Although this work is fictional, and no, not everybody needs a thneed; the dramatic cost of human complacency, greed, and ignorance on the earth is very real. Although Truffula trees being cut down is a fictional problem, climate change is not.
I’m not sure about you, but I remember how connected my friends and I were to the Earth as kids. We used to find beauty in forests and gardens as we breathed fresh air while relishing in the innocent joys of childhood.
And because it was so inherent that we would play in nature, we also felt an innate obligation to look after our big, beautiful playground. It was second-nature to us to pick up trash we found on the ground, even if it wasn’t ours.
But as we’ve grown up, and are not as focused on appreciating the Earth, have we abandoned these responsibilities to take care of this amazing planet we live on? Well, judging by all of the wonderful faces I see before me, taking time out of your evenings to stand up for the environment and stand against climate change, I would say no.
However, we’re also just trying to survive high school.We’ve got finals and SAT’s to study for, and as much as we care about the climate, it’s easy to fall into patterns of choosing actions based on what’s easy instead of what’s eco-friendly. After all, how much power do we really have? We’re just teens, right? Wrong.
We are the generation that will stop climate change. And we don’t have to wait for politicians or corporations to work in our favor, the Earth’s favor. Like the Lorax, we don’t have to wait for the truffula trees to be cut down to align our actions with our morals and encourage others to do the same.
Nobody gave us a roadmap for this. As a global community facing devastating environmental disasters that are undoubtedly climate-related, and lately, are hitting close to home, we’ve woken up to the reality that it is time to create our own road map. We cannot stand aside and succumb to our age limits as we watch the once-lers in the White House and corporate chairs ignore science and destroy what is sacred and a fundamental right to all beings on the planet, a livable climate.
It is not cliche to say that one person can make a difference. There are things that we can do, as teens, to reduce our carbon emissions and be the change we wish to see in this world.
In Sonoma County, transportation is the number one source of our direct greenhouse gas emissions. And since this is so significant, the potential for changing this is also significant. Sixty percent of the trips we make are within two miles of our homes. Can you imagine the possible reduction in carbon emissions that we could have as a community if, instead of driving to those places so close to us, we walked or biked? Changing your behavior in this way is one the single handedly most effective things you can do for the climate.
Another simple yet incredibly crucial responsibility we each must take on, especially being only a few years away from making our own livings, is being a conscious consumer. We truly vote with our dollar, and in addition to making our purchases through eco-friendly companies and choosing to eat plant-based foods, we need to change our mindsets. Altering our habits of consumption to become more thoughtful is a fundamental way we can all contribute to a more sustainable world. So ask yourself next time you’re at the store, “do I really need to buy this? Can I choose this more sustainable product over another?”
The first step is addressing climate issues, as we’ve done together at discussion tables for the past hour. The next is taking action to achieve climate solutions. Tonight, continue to participate in the upcoming round of discussions at solution-oriented tables led by more youth leaders. And even after tonight, spark conversations about climate.
Joining earth clubs at your school, reaching out to the green-oriented organizations and businesses featured here tonight, and using things you are already passionate about to speak up for climate change are just a number of ways you can be a powerful voice for the future of the climate. If you love music, write a song about environmental activism. If you’re an athlete, carpool to sporting events and recycle your athletic gear. If you’re a passionate artist, create a piece illustrating a balanced, sustainable relationship between humans and the environment.
Just look at Dr. Seuss, who dedicated his career to educating children about social and environmental awareness through creative writing and drawing.
And remember, like he so brilliantly said,
Good evening everyone,
We come here tonight following a truly tragic event, but ready to take charge of our future.
Thousands of us lost our homes, and whether or not it’s you personally, we are all in this together.
We are now surprised to find out that are previously peaceful county is now a disaster zone. But the recent wildfires are yet another sign that no person is immune to the effects of climate change.
Let me set the record straight -- although regularly denied by polluters, Mega corporations and even our current president, climate change is real and caused by humans. That is a fact that is backed up by 97% of climate scientists.
Burning fossil fuels, irresponsible agriculture and deforestation are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and these heat-trapping gasses are causing global temperatures to rise rapidly.
Some of this happens without humans – in fact, we depend upon it. But our actions are pushing the system over its boundaries, causing the climate to change, for the worst.
Climate and weather are interconnected. As the climate changes so do weather patterns.
In recent years, we have seen natural disasters like we have never seen before: bigger hurricanes, longer droughts, rising sea levels, harsher tornadoes, and finally, stronger wildfires. All of which are the results of climate change. And it’s only going to get worse.
But if our actions created this mess, then our actions can solve it.
So we should choose which future we want: the one that isliveable or the one that is not.
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