KIDS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
But the origins, of course, are, in the end irrelevant, and while the phrase has become a little shopworn with overuse, it still remains what may be the most succinct and eloquent single sentence ever connected to the existential issue of Climate Change.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
That is essentially what 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23. When she addressed the summit meeting, and angrily scolded global decision makers for “failing us,” she was speaking with the voice of the first generation of human beings forced to confront a global crisis that places them at ever greater risk while they did nothing to create it, because their parents had already mortgaged their future.
Which may be why Greta has been so effective, turning a 2018 school strike into a global movement and becoming the odds-on favorite to win the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize (which was scheduled to be announced the day after this magazine went to press).
Thunberg’s message should make all of us uncomfortable, because all of us are to one degree or another complicit in creating a world that consumes more energy and natural resources than it can create or replace. The myth of perpetual growth is comforting, and it fits us comfortably, until it doesn’t. And by then our hills and our homes are on fire on one side, and the ocean is rising on the other, and all the old paradigms are obsolete. As Goldman Environmental Prize winner Terri Swearingen has said, “We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”
If you have children, their faces may be buried in their mobile screens, but don’t think they’re unaware of what is happening, and the world that lies in wait for them.
So, inspired by Greta Thunberg, we reached out to a few students at Sonoma Valley High School and Adele Harrison Middle School for their thoughts on Thunberg’s message. We envisioned a more comprehensive outreach, but time didn’t allow it. So we intend to keep the conversation going, and we hope you will join in.
SHAME ON YOU
Greta Thunberg’s shaming message.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on September 23, 2019. Her words riveted those who heard her and went viral around the world.
This is what she said.
“My message is that we’ll be watching you.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.
“Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
“So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us—we who have to live with the consequences.
“To have a 67 percent chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise—the best odds given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on January 1, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.
“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.
“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
It’s Time to Change — We Don’t Have Another Choice
My name is Erandi Hernandez. I am a student from Sonoma Valley High School. I am honored to be invited to talk about our current environmental issues and my opinion on Greta Thunberg.
She is currently the inspiration for my Senior Project at Sonoma Valley High School. I am implementing a recycling program at my school. Greta inspires me to share the message with students who don’t quite understand what we are currently going through. I believe it is important for students and our society to understand that we are running out of resources and it is time to change. We don’t have another choice.
Unite as a Species, Protect What We Stand On
My name is Christopher Rivas, I am a junior at Sonoma Valley High School and a participant of the generation that will bear the effects of climate change the most.
I have known the gravity of climate change since the beginning of my high school career, and yet, with all the natural disasters that have occurred during this time, no political action has happened. No one seems to talk about the issue, and the average American is unsure if climate change is real and life-threatening. This needs to change.
Our political system, and this administration particularly, have blinded society into believing that this issue of climate change isn’t fatal. But the issues of immigration, social inequality, gun control, unemployment, and more—although all are important to me—do not match the urgency of the climate crisis. It carries with it collateral damage conflicts, which further highlight the necessary call to action.
I would like elected leaders to support the Green New Deal, a promise that would ensure an age of clean, safe, equal, and sustainable living. Not only because it addresses the issue, but also because of the benefits that come with it—such as guaranteed employment. Change needs to happen. We must unite as a common species and protect what we stand on.
My Future Depends On the Actions We Take Now
My name is Kate Bolling. The way our planet has been treated, and is being treated, is truly disgusting and terrifying.
Everyone is responsible for saving our planet. Negligence is not an option.
We have to act, and we have to act now. We can’t ignore science, as we are already facing the consequences of climate change all over the world and here at home. We have all seen the effects that climate change has had on our state. While some of the California wildfires were not caused by merely one thing, a change in winds and drier land contributed to the size and fueling of these devastating events. We can’t just sit around and wait for the inevitable.
My future and the future of my entire generation depend on the actions we take now. I refuse to sit and watch as people turn their backs to our planet. It’s hard to stay motivated when the problem feels so big. When it takes so long to fix an issue, no matter how big it might be, it starts to seem hopeless. We need to stay motivated. We need to think about the big picture and long-term effects. If not, we face a mass extinction.
Think about your kids, about your pets and family, who have to grow up and live in the world that we are creating. I don’t want to have to spend my adulthood picking up the scraps of a broken world left by the people before us.
Everyone has to believe climate change is real. But at some point believing isn’t enough. At some point people have to act. We need to take actual steps as a society to a cleaner, more informed world. It’s up to us to decide what we do every single day. Our actions can save or break the earth. What will you do?
One Person Can Have an Impact On the World
My name is Nima Sherpa. Seeing Greta Thunberg fight so passionately for the preservation of our environment, I am motivated every day to try my best in helping our planet as well.
Seeing Greta Thunberg fight so passionately for the preservation of our environment, I am motivated every day to try my best in helping our planet as well.
I am very passionate about the environment and finding ways we can help our planet, as climate change does not just affect third-world countries, but rather everyone and every living organism on earth.
I also find it crucial to care and try our best to fight this climate crisis rather than thinking it is too late for a change and giving up hope completely. Because of my passion, I want to major in Environmental Law when I go to college. Right now, in high school, I am the president of Earth Club and I am also doing my senior project on composting. My activity is learning about sorting out trash from things that are compostable and then teaching the SVHS staff, as well as students, how to put the right things in which garbage bins. I am trying to make sure the campus reduces its food waste by the end of next year, to help the environment.
Because food waste contributes to more methane being released into the atmosphere, and it’s more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, I have chosen to compost as my senior project.
Greta started the school strike by herself and went on to inspire thousands of young people across the world. This proves that the actions of one person can have an impact on the world, and it gives me hope for the future of my generation.
I hope to educate myself and inspire others to take action as well. My goal is to make a change by continuing the conversation about our role in helping the environment in any way we can to be responsible global citizens.