The New York Times recently published a feature called “Bad Future, Better Future: A guide for kids, and everyone else, about climate change -- and what we can do about it.” This interactive article directed at kids tells the story of fossil fuels and paints a picture of two futures: one in which we don’t take action against climate change and one in which we do. And it’s scary. It’s scary knowing from a much-too-young age that your future is at stake and the people in charge aren’t doing anything about it. This is the reality in which my generation is growing up. I don’t remember learning about climate change for the first time--it has been a reality for my whole life.
The NY Times article does a great job of simplifying the fossil fuel problem and environmental racism. It also gives us hope for the future by describing a “better future." The one thing the article lacks is specific action steps that young people can take. We need to make activism more accessible to protect our future. Concrete action steps are what I needed as a 12-year-old suffering from climate anxiety. I needed something or someone to guide me through making a difference. I knew climate change was an existential threat, but I didn’t know what to do about it, so I let my mental health deteriorate to a point where I couldn’t do anything without feeling guilty about contributing to the climate crisis.
So I say this to the New York Times: we need action steps, not more horrifying stories about what our future could be. We know it’s scary, and we’re motivated to take action, but we don’t know how. Please highlight stories of action to help the younger generations feel hopeful about our futures.
And I pose this question to world leaders: our future is in your hands. Can we trust you with it?
Leigh Schmidt (she/her) is a high school sophomore and a political activist. Find her on social media at @leighkschmidt.
What does colonialism have to do with the climate crisis? Actually, quite a lot. European colonizers changed the environment of the Americas, causing manmade climate change.
Colonialism: “Control by one power over a dependent area or people."
When they colonized the Americas, Europeans…
...brought invasive plants. They forced Indigenous people into slavery and made them grow cash crops. Not only did this practice kill species of native plants, but it also established a racial hierarchy that put Indigenous people below Europeans.
...killed indigenous species. Colonizers, and later US pioneers, killed almost the entire buffalo population in the American West. Indigenous people relied on buffalo for centuries before colonization. Fewer buffalo means more small game, which means fewer native plants.
...disrespected nature. Indigenous people lived in harmony with the ecosystem and thrived for millennia by respecting Mother Earth. Europeans managed to destroy that ecosystem (and 99% of the people living in it) in just a couple hundred years. “With colonialism came the idea that everything on this earth is made for our extraction and that everything is to be bought and sold. We see this in the arrival of European colonizers to the Americas, where the land, water and other natural resources were stolen and abused” (Jamie Margolin).
...created oppressive systems. Colonialism introduced systems of oppression based on race, economic class, and gender that are still integrated into our systems today. Oppressed peoples are more impacted by the climate crisis and have fewer resources to protect themselves from it.
"I'm Not Only Striking for the Climate" by Jamie Margolin.
"Colonialism, Climate Change and the Caper of Coopted Culture" by Timothy Harris.
It was 60 degrees in Denver yesterday. What does that mean?
Although it was awesome to be able to go outside in a t-shirt, this weather indicates a trend that could have serious effects unless we deal with it. Obviously, climate change has caused winters to be warmer. 2020 tied for the warmest year on record, and the planet is only getting warmer. That means that there will be fewer and fewer snows. 70% of Colorado's water comes from snowmelt. When there is less snow, the Colorado River is drier than it should be, and the millions of people who depend on the river for their water supply face a water shortage.
What can you do?
Reduce your individual carbon footprint. Check out some of our challenges for ideas and tips.
Contact your legislators and ask them to make climate action a priority.
The climate crisis is already affecting all of us, but in different ways. If you live in a coastal area, you’ve probably noticed rising sea levels. If you live in a dry climate, like I do, you’re probably hearing a lot about drought and forest fires. There is no doubt that human-caused climate change is a threat--97% of scientists agree on that fact. Now, we’ve waited so long to make a change that it has become an immediate existential threat, and it is estimated that we only have 10 years to make a 50% reduction in our carbon emissions before we permanently lose some ecosystems.
The climate crisis is a nonpartisan issue--because it affects everyone--and we can’t deal with it unless we recognize that. The only thing stopping the two political parties from working together to beat this crisis is misunderstandings about the benefits and costs of the proposed solutions. I’m going to address some of the main concerns expressed about the best solution: transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.
We interviewed Colorado State Senator Brittany Pettersen about the 2020 election and what you can do to get involved and make a difference.
Make sure to tune in to our other live interviews here: instagram.com/project5billion
We’re interviewing activist and politician MacDella Cooper about racial justice and the 2020 election! Tune in to our Instagram live on Wednesday, October 21 at 6 pm EST!
Stay tuned here and on our social media pages for more info about this week's topic and upcoming interviews.
We’re interviewing Jessica Goad about the Climate Crisis and the 2020 Election! Tune in to our Instagram live on 10/14 at 6 pm Eastern time.
The 2020 election puts many issues at stake, including climate, racial justice, women's rights, and healthcare. We're interviewing four experts on these issues over the next five weeks.
Stay tuned here and on our social media for more information about each guest and the topics we'll be discussing. All livestreams will be taking place on our Instagram page. Videos of the livestreams will be posted on this page within a few days of their scheduled dates.