As a climate activist, I’m often asked: What one thing can we do that matters in regard to our climate crisis? My response is always, “Talk about it.” This helps spread awareness and normalizes talking about really hard things. Because young people are acutely aware of — and increasingly vocal about — the ways in which their lives are affected now and will continually be affected by the global climate crisis, I asked five students in our community the question that I am often asked. Here’s their responses:
Tyler is a senior at WMU. He’s pursuing a double major in applied mathematics and economics.
The truth is that most people do not understand the severity of the climate crisis. This enables corrupt politicians and corporations to get away with letting my generation’s future be destroyed. Those in power are not addressing these global problems. We need to organize in large numbers, nonviolently, to express how unacceptable this is. The No. 1 thing we can do is to engage in advocacy and activism and protest against the status quo.
Aida is a Western Michigan University undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental and sustainability studies and earth science. She is active in Students for a Sustainable Earth, the Sunrise Movement and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Aida is also an intern with the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition.
The author Jonathan Safran Foer, in We Are the Weather, writes that we can do our part in combating the climate crisis by cutting down on eating meat. Animal agriculture accounts for one-third of emissions worldwide, and we often underestimate the difference we can make with our choices as consumers. It’s a common misconception that eating mostly plant-based (food) is hard and unaffordable. Vegetables and fruits are affordable, especially when bought locally; beans or tofu can replace animal protein and cost much less than meat. Those of us that are able to choose what to put on our plates can make an impact by making conscious, sustainable food choices.
Simon graduated from Climax-Scotts High School as valedictorian this year. He is heading to Northern Michigan University, in Marquette, to pursue a degree in elementary education, with a focus on science or music.
I live in a small farming town that is quite insulated, so often the grander scheme of climate change might not be as visible as in larger cities. However, this background, combined with high school environmental science education, provides me with a unique view, in that I can understand both the impact of climate change and the importance of farming and agriculture to our world. Every year Americans throw away nearly 40 million tons of food waste. This ends up in landfills, decomposes and turns into methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. My favorite way to combat this is by composting. Organic matter is kept out of landfills and creates natural fertilizers for gardens. It’s a simple thing to start and makes a big difference.
Oceanne, age 10, is a student at El Sol Elementary School. She helped start the school’s Climate Change Club in 2019.
What I think is the most important thing that people can do is reduce the amount of CO2 we humans put in the air. We can stop burning fossil fuels by not traveling as much, using hybrid cars, and turning off lights. During this COVID-19 virus, some factories closed and people are driving a lot less, so not as many fossil fuels are being burned and the air is cleaner in many places.
Andrew is an activist with the youth-led Sunrise Movement, aimed at stopping climate change. He is majoring in English at Kalamazoo College and is scheduled to graduate in 2021.
Addressing racial injustices, particularly environmental racism, will go a long way in alleviating our climate crisis. So much pollution is allowed to occur because it happens in, and most directly affects, black and brown communities. If we, as a society, really valued all lives equally, it would be a lot harder for polluting corporations to get away with clouding our atmosphere with heat-trapping and other health-threatening particles.