Cosima Balletti-Thomas is a recent Fordham University graduate with a bachelor's degree in Environmental/Urban Studies and an upcoming MS Finance candidate at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Cosima was a spring semester Field Representative with Our Climate and a current volunteer.
“I’m terrified. The situation was urgent fifteen years ago when I was a kid. Now I’m terrified that I won’t be able to even recognize the world in a few decades.” - Alexis Becker, Nurse Practitioner Candidate.
As the exigency for climate action escalates, it is vital that we shift the collective attitude about the environment to counter the adverse impacts of inaction and ignorance propagated by our current federal administration. It may not be fair, but climate change is an injustice. Its devastating consequences are disproportionately felt around the world, largely concentrated in areas least responsible for the crisis. This imbalance; however, will soon resolve itself as the effects of climate change inch closer and closer to the Western world and other world powers most accountable for its rise and exacerbation.
In a country so divided on environmental issues, I have wondered if the same trend exists within young people as the main recipients and future beasts of burden of the climate crisis. To explore this, I conducted interviews with students across America to learn about how the climate crisis affects them both physically and psychologically, and whether or not it has affected their political views, especially within the last few years and given the upcoming presidential election.
Alexis Becker, a Centre College graduate now studying to become a Nurse Practitioner in Louisville, Kentucky explains that she currently lives relatively comfortably in middle America where she is financially stable and shops sustainably. That said, she anticipates changes to her lifestyle over the next three decades as the average global temperature continues to rise.
Elias Pentes, a junior at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina pursuing a degree in Advertising and a minor in Holocaust Studies describes how climate change has already made its mark on his town, noting, “Every climate record is being broken, giving our community a sense of dread of the years to come.”
Pentes furthers that in light of the upcoming election, “If a candidate [does not] recognize the problem at hand, I don’t believe they are qualified to lead in any sort of capacity.”
Similarly, another Fordham University senior who wished not to be named explains that “while my family and I have historically supported the Republican party, climate change is not a partisan issue, though it is the most pressing issue and we are prepared to vote for whoever is most equipped and willing to implement deep-seated reform, and chances are that will be a Democrat.”
When asked to compare the urgency of the climate crisis to that of other national and global issues, Becker responded that “Climate change is [tantamount] to me as all human rights issues [are as] the poor and disadvantaged will have to shoulder the burden of climate change more than anyone else despite not being responsible for [it].”
Pentes adds that “Climate change is the most pressing global issue of our time,” furthering that other pressing issues will only become exacerbated by the climate crisis and thus, “without immediate action from our world leaders our planet faces destruction by our own hands.”
Kylie Ford is a senior at Fordham University in New York City pursuing a double-major in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. When asked to what extent a candidate’s views on climate action will factor into her voting decision in the 2020 presidential election, she responded that swift climate action is necessary to avoid environmental catastrophe and her decision will most likely correlate to the candidate with the strongest climate initiative.
Ford discusses how her worldview has been altered by climate change, explaining that her entire academic and professional career has been and will continue to be devoted to mitigating climate change.
When prompted about the current administration, Pentes responds, “Perhaps a massive political overhaul would be the key to enacting significant change, but for now I see no hope in the [American Government] passing regulations of any kind.” Becker adds, “I don’t trust the government. Of course I don’t. [...] Most of them are straight-out ignoring their constituents on this issue, as the concern for this is bipartisan.”
Evidently, students from all different backgrounds and parts of the nation are concerned about climate change, so why does our administration continue to treat global climate change as a partisan issue when it impacts every economy and corner of the world? The distribution of destruction has been vastly uneven, though every additional region that becomes inhospitable creates a higher exigency for added space and resources to facilitate forced and swift immigration from those places. Western countries may not have exhibited the worst of it so far, but our economies will indeed suffer the ripple effect as more and more parts of the world can no longer yield vital resources and support human life and activity.