March 17, 2019
The environment is in crisis. Rising temperatures increase sea levels, droughts, and severe weather events, according to NASA. If we do nothing, the situation will only get worse: scientist’s predictions are scary.
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most outspoken, dedicated, and acutely aware are those who it will affect the most: students.
Students are suing the government for an infringement on their health, because they realize the impact that the environmental policy of the next years will have on the rest of our lives. Their case is called Juliana vs. the US and the plaintiffs are from ten different states and range in age from eleven to twenty-two.
Students are confronting their politicians to ask for decisive action because staying on the sidelines doesn’t seem possible in light of such a global obstacle. Children affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, for example, talked to Senator Dianne Feinstein in her office about their support for the Green New Deal.
Students are staging walkouts and skipping school to protest inaction because school is compulsory and leaving it makes us loud. The power of walkouts in amplifying student’s dissent started with Parkland but has expanded, with a global walkout for the climate planned for March 15th. Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg started a movement called “Fridays for Future” where students go on strike from school every Friday to advocate for a healthier earth. Our voices are tied to our places of education because students skipping school to prepare for the future seems backwards enough that people take notice.
It’s important to note, however, that this activism doesn’t mean that the other stresses of adolescence disappear.
Paired with schoolwork, SATs and extracurricular activities, the thought of coral bleaching can be overwhelming.
So, the question: how can you stay woke and still sleep at night? How can you raise your voice for the things that matter without sacrificing your mental health? How can you keep fighting the good fight when it seems like things are getting worse and worse?
I’m still working on figuring out the answers to these questions myself, but so far I have three things that I try to remember and remind myself of when I’m sad about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
- Things will change. There’s an election around the corner and the high-school activists of today will be of voting age. For me, it’s helpful to remember that we are not forever stuck and that progress is happening and will continue to happen.
- High School Musical isn’t the only place where We’re All in This Together is relevant. We really are all in this together, with all in the broadest sense of the word. It’s calming to remember that you are not alone in the fight to protect the earth and our future living on it. Together, we are powerful.
- Revel in small victories. Maybe you can’t single-handedly save the polar bears but you can use reusable bags! Small victories might seem insignificant in the effort to help the planet, especially in the face of global obstacles, but they’re not! Small steps can have important impacts.
In fact, small actions are the perfect remedy for a teenager stressed by both socratic seminars and sea level rises. It can be easy to be paralyzed by the magnitude of climate change juxtaposed with the little that it feels you can do to affect it, but in my experience, just doing something, even as simple as drinking my Dunkin’ iced coffee without a straw, can feel wonderful.
While it isn’t just up to students to solve climate change, our collective power is vast. Probably the best way to use it is in small, sustained steps: try walking the extra feet in the cafeteria to the recycling bin, not eating meat on Mondays, using a reusable water bottle, keeping a compost pile, turning off unused lights, or using Ecosia instead of Google. Together, we can strike a healthy, productive balance between activist and overwhelmed.