As a young person in today’s society, I often feel like I, along with my peers, am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders - literally! When I first read about the rainforest being on fire for the third week straight, I suffered what seemed to be a hybrid of a heartbreak and a panic attack. Instagram and other forms of social media have highlighted the ominous predictions for sea level rise over the next decade, and I had already seen the videos of the Greenland ice melt, but for some reason, seeing pictures of the most diverse ecosystem on the planet turning to smoke, hurt far worse than what I had already known. As a result of rapid deforestation, and the Earth’s temperatures rising, there are 80% more forest fires in the Amazon region this year than last. The Amazon rainforest is home to over 40,000 plant species and over 100,000 animal species, including the birds that fly in the canopy, the apex predators that hunt on the forest floor, and the insects that claim the parts of the forest too small for other inhabitants. As if that is not enough, this diverse ecosystem is also home to 30 million people, spanning several ethnic groups in nine different political systems. Though I had understood climate change was an issue, this was the first time I had realized that climate change was the issue. By that I mean, climate change is without a doubt going to have drastic impacts on every aspect of my future, and your future, if you’re reading this. But how do we talk about climate change when our society seems to be plagued with so many other major issues?
With mass shootings taking place more often than we’ve ever seen before in history, an opioid epidemic compounded by a poor healthcare system, human rights violations at the Mexican-American border, and political tension seen around the world, it might be difficult to start the much needed conversation about climate change when these other issues may seem more pressing to activists and those following the news. Even though the United States President, Donald Trump, doesn’t consider climate change a global issue that affects everyone, the six other industrialized democracies that make up the seven largest IMF-described economies met on August 25th at a G7 summit meeting to discuss ways to deal with the climate crisis, and what to do about the Amazon forest fires. This issue is a big deal. It won’t only be Brazilians orindigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest feeling the heat of this fire, but the whole world has a lot to lose if we do not start talking about climate solutions, implementing equitable climate policy, and holding large corporations and our representatives accountable.
It is important to acknowledge that people disproportionately affected by climate change are usually the same people experiencing other institutional disparities such as unequal access to healthcare, education, fresh food, clean air and water, and are disproportionately incarcerated. With natural disasters getting more intense over the recent years, we have seen communities in New Orleans, Houston, Tallahassee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, destroyed by hurricanes; many of them still recovering from the devastation. The National Climate Assessment warns that climate change will have significant impacts on the foods we eat and our access to clean drinking water. In a world where 11% of the population already lives without access to clean water, and nearly half of the population living on less than $2.50 a day, the unrecoverable loss of resources will cause tension and unrest. People will be excluded either geographically or socially from the severely limited resources and wars will begin over clean water and food. Climate refugees will flee from regions of droughts, or regions now under water, and we will see overcrowding in many areas. Globally, we’ve witnessed countless developing nations battered by tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and droughts, though their carbon footprint is far less than their capitalistic, developed counterparts.
The Environmental Protection Agency says industries are responsible for 21% of greenhouse gases. Another 25% comes from electricity and heat production, and a comparable 24% from agriculture. These are all human related causes of climate change that could be regulated to be more sustainable for the planet and all the people who call Earth home. The corporations and other entities contributing to climate change need to be held accountable for their actions because when you violate the planet and its resources, you also violate humanity. They are exploiting people of color and low socioeconomic status by excluding them from access to a healthy environment. Furthermore, our representatives need to be held accountable in representing us regardless of our race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
So, whatever your fight, recognize that climate change is a human rights issue and the conversation needs to be happening daily. Our futures depend on us voting consistently at the ballot and with our dollars. We MUST call our legislators! It’s crucial to let them know that you’re concerned for your future and demand they bold action on climate change. More importantly, our legislators are elected to work for us, and they need to listen to their constituents. Other important conversations come in the form of presentations at local schools about climate change, and getting young kids into nature to appreciate its immensity and necessity to life. Talk to your peers. Talk to your parents. Change starts with the conversation.
As summer draws to an end and we look ahead to an action-packed fall, we're grateful for the work young people are doing across the country (and world) to mitigate the climate crisis. Read on to learn about the recent climate policy trainings we held, upcoming events, opportunities to join our staff team in Massachusetts and Florida, and more!
What a wild month it's been. Young people across the country have been working for years to pass bold state-level climate policy, and in June, we won in New York! We are also seeing firsthand how powerful the fossil fuel industry is, and we know that the fight ahead will not be easy. Read on to see what our team's been up to and how you can get involved.
The fight in Oregon to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill (HB 2020) is not over. Young Oregonians are severely threatened by the climate crisis, and we cannot afford to wait for legislation that limits pollution and averts the worst effects of a warming planet. We call on Governor Kate Brown to hold a special session so lawmakers do what we sent them to do: protect our future by passing HB 2020.
Make no mistake: HB 2020 was sent back to committee because the fossil fuel industry made a last-ditch effort to protect their bottom line. Senate Republicans, whose campaigns can receive unlimited funding from corporate interests, left the state to prevent a vote because they knew they would lose. The fact that a handful of Democrats rewarded this behavior by caving to their fossil-fuel industry-funded demands is unacceptable.
Mitigating the climate crisis will require courage, creativity, and perseverance, and we are deeply grateful to our elected leaders, including Governor Kate Brown, who have risen to this challenge. Oregon voters elected a majority of lawmakers who promised to take action on climate change. They have not yet delivered. For this reason, a special session must be convened immediately to pass HB 2020, preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions, and demonstrate Oregon’s leadership on this critical issue.
Young leaders call for Oregon Senate President to stand up to fossil fuel funded Republican minority
As young Oregonians directly threatened by the climate crisis, we are outraged that Senate President Peter Courtney has caved to Republican demands and plans to walk away from the Clean Energy Jobs bill (HB 2020). Young constituents deserve leaders who fight for their interests and do not back down when things get tough. We deserve to know where our elected leaders stand, and who they represent. For this reason, we demand a full Senate floor vote on Clean Energy Jobs this legislative session.
This week, the New York State legislature passed the historic Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which sets the strongest greenhouse gas emissions reduction standards in the country.
Violette is a freshman studying Environmental Analysis and Policy at Boston University while concurrently earning her MA in Energy and Environment. Violette’s passion for environmental advocacy stems from her experience as a lifelong resident of the Central Valley, CA, America’s agricultural capital. When she is not studying or working, Violette can be found running, cycling, skiing, hiking, or stargazing in her hammock with her black lab, Gus.
Andrew Dickinson is a junior at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and was a Fellow in the Fall of 2018. He is majoring in Communications with a minor in Environmental Science. He has been environmentally conscious since he was a kid and recently decided that this was the path he needs to go down in order to make the world a better place. He sees Our Climate as a clear first step towards a career in environmental advocacy after graduating. When he isn’t thinking about ways to better our future, you’ll find him scaling a rock wall or shredding the slopes of a ski hill.
Gabriel Bongiorno is a Fellow with Our Climate and a sophomore at Binghamton University.