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.