Teen Talk: Climate activism starts by taking action now

It shouldn’t be 52 degrees in January, but here we are.

We just ended the warmest decade ever and started a slew of new and recurring climate issues in 2020. Bushfires in Australia. A record-high temperature of 64.9 degrees in Antarctica. Melting glaciers. Rising ocean levels. The warmest January ever in global records. Teenagers are concerned.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow.”

These are the words of Greta Thunberg, Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. At just 17 years old, Greta has positioned herself as a leading climate activist for change. The Swedish teenager has started Fridays for Future, a climate strike involving millions of people across the globe. Now, she is one of the countless teenagers contributing to an international movement against climate change.

The majority of us teens are afraid and angry about climate change. After all, as a fellow teen put it, we were born into “a mess made from each successive generation saying ‘not my problem’ and putting their kids in the crossfire.”

Carbon dioxide levels have exceeded the standard limit and have continued to rise since 1950. In addition, formal education about global warming appears to be decreasing. In 2010, a quarter of teenagers felt they learned “a lot” about climate change in school, compared to 14% in 2019.

Despite these disadvantages, one in four teenagers is taking action against climate change, whether through marches, protests, walk-outs or other means. After ten million people took part in Fridays for Future strikes in September 2019, Greta Thunberg stated, “We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

This is our world, and it is our responsibility to take care of it. The climate crisis is far too large an issue for any single person to solve themselves. The solution lies in the power of us.

As teenagers, we are aware of the many ways to help prevent global warming. Use less water by taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet while we brush our teeth. Conserve energy by washing our clothes in cold water and taking cooler showers. Use less plastic by getting a reusable water bottle and refilling it, rather than throwing away single-use plastic bottles. Recycle as much as possible, whether it is papers from school, old magazines or the cardboard boxes our snacks come in. Drive less often, and carpool or use public transport whenever possible. Plant a tree! Just one tree can remove one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As we grow older, we will gain access to even more influential rights concerning climate change. We can choose to vote for a leader who will take initiative towards a better world, buy an energy-efficient car, or purchase solar panels for our home.

Perhaps the most important decision we can make is to use our influence in a positive way, to change the minds of others. To teach friends and family about the climate crisis and what they can do to help. If we all played a part, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, we would have the power to reduce our global carbon footprint and create a better world for generations to come.

We teenagers are the future. Should we continue the climate crisis by denying the issue and pushing the problem onto the next generation, or should we work together to reverse the damage before it’s too late?

The climate is changing, and so should we.

Maria Proulx of Ledyard is a sophomore at St. Bernard School in Montville.

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