EDGEWISE: Facing climate change: Step up, make a difference

It is time that we as a generation of young people wake up and realize what is in store for us, because there will come a time when we will be called upon to provide answers. People will ask us how we can end suffering and create better lives, we will have to answer.

Calling on older generations

Among the many imposing threats we face today, climate change may be the most serious. Although my generation is getting involved, there is a lot of discouragement among young adults and teenagers. Many of my fellow classmates say that there is no point in participating in politics, because nothing will ever change. We look ahead at the world we’re just stepping out into, and feel that older generations have failed us.

For the majority of our lives, we have had no control over our own carbon footprint. We were driven around in our parent’s cars, given products and toys that were made in factories, and were often unaware of how the food we were served was produced. None of us knew or could control the price of our actions.

But now we are constantly being told that we human beings are destroying the planet, hurting the environment, destroying our future. Young people of my generation are also often told that we are lazy, and complacent. It is a heavy burden to place on someone who is just entering college, or leaving with $30,000 in debt, praying to find a job.

carbon footprint
University of California

Looking into the future, we see the looming threat of climate change, and we are afraid, but so many of our parents do not take the threat seriously. We know this will be our burden, despite the fact that we did not create the destructive system we were born into.

I ask you, our elders, is this the world you want to leave for your children? All parents say they want the best for their kids, but do you realize what you’re doing when you drive around in giant cars, and run companies that lead to environmental devastation? Climate change is a huge crisis, and there is no point in wasting time arguing about whether it is or is not manmade. There are also the impacts of the plastics that we are producing and the toxins that we are pumping into the environment to consider.

Climate change is a daunting issue that can sometimes feel hopeless, but my request for you parents is: don’t discourage your children. Don’t let future generations think that you turned your backs on them. Show your children through your own good example how to lead the way by trying something new and sustainable everyday.

Now for the young

Having said that, my generation does not get a pass. Complaining does not change what is already set into motion, and merely blaming others is too easy. My generation is inundated with so many problems to focus on that cohesiveness is difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

It is time that we as a generation of young people wake up and realize what is in store for us, because there will come a time when we will be called upon to provide answers. People will ask us how we can end suffering and create better lives, we will have to answer.

The People's Climate March in New York City, September of 2014.
The People’s Climate March in New York City, September of 2014.

Now is not the time to be discouraged. I have heard many of my peers tell me that they do not vote, because it will not change anything. This is not only sad; it is insulting. To say that we cannot change anything is to insult all of the people who have worked so hard and even given up their lives to make a difference.

Every generation is handed the mistakes of their parents and forced to either put up with the status quo or work for change. What we need now are great leaders and organizers to bring people together for a movement. And the truth is that as the saying goes, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We must turn ourselves into leaders we need.

The best way to begin is to try something new. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to know exactly what you are doing, but you have to try. Too often, people become scared, and they don’t believe that they can make a difference, so they don’t try. But, by taking small steps every day you can learn how to make larger steps.

For example, here are some small things that can be done everyday: turn out your lights when you leave your house; walk when you don’t need to drive; travel less; eat in your home more often; buy local foods that have not traveled far; compost all of your food scraps. Just by composting your food waste, you are reducing methane from going into the atmosphere, since when food goes in the trash and rots, methane is produced.

These are all daily activities that can raise your consciousness. But there is still so much more you can do. Become involved in politics, starting with contacting your local representatives and telling them your concerns. The more people who do this, the more politicians will listen. We can boycott corporations that contribute to climate change by not buying their products. There are many ways to make a difference every day.

People have a tendency to be very shortsighted, but we do not have time for this. The world is changing rapidly both technologically and environmentally, and all the decisions we make now will have a huge impact on future generations. I have a lot of faith in my generation. We can accomplish so much if we nourish our collective vision of the better world we want to create, and keep our hope alive.

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biophotoMarjorie Cort, a senior at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, is majoring in Environmental and Sustainability Studies with a focus on Political Ecology. She is currently writing her senior thesis on climate change and international conflict resolution. Although her focus is on international environmental affairs, Marjorie is passionate about bringing environmental issues to the forefront in her home community of Berkshire County. She has experience studying local ecology and biology, and intends to use her research to lead environmental discussions in the Berkshires. Believing that her generation has an obligation to step up to the plate to work through environmental problems, she is currently planning a public environmental film viewing and panel discussion at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and intends to create more opportunities for discussion.

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Author photoThe weekly EDGE WISE column is curated by Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D., associate professor of comparative literature, gender studies and media studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and the Founding Director of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Women writers interested in publishing in EDGE WISE can find writers’ guidelines on the Festival website, or may submit queries or columns to Jennifer@berkshirewomenwriters.org.