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.
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.