Climate Debate Heats Up as Youth Activists Take the Stage

Over the past few months, climate change has been highlighted more than ever as a threat to the human population and the planet as a whole. The Office of the Director of National Security explains that climate change is “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” Dangers associated with climate change include extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, rising sea levels, soil degradation, and ocean acidification.” Loss of biodiversity as a result of these human-produced problems will have catastrophic effects on ecosystems, and further jeopardize food and water sources, while ruining economic avenues for millions. Climate change greatly endangers the planet and, in conjunction, contributes to various alarming problems.

One flaw evident in America is the “denialism” of the U.S. government, with 150 of the 535 members of congress still denying that climate change exists. When a large portion of those in power refuses to acknowledge an issue’s legitimacy, it becomes almost impossible to fix. In response, climate activists like Greta Thunberg have led massive worldwide climate strikes with millions of participants to raise awareness. Notably, 7.6 million people were involved in the Global Climate Strike from September 20th to 27th, where a record number of students and young adults called out the older generations and politicians in hopes of promoting change. After recently traveling to the US in a highly publicized voyage aboard a carbon-zero sailing vessel, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg pleaded with world leaders to take action against climate change at the UN Climate Action Summit. In a heartfelt speech, she stated, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Continuing this movement, student-led walkouts have trended across the globe; most recently, on October 25th, the streets of Vancouver were flooded by a climate protest.

Despite an undeniably bleak future, there is hope, yet it requires global action. All must make a conscious effort to be environmentally aware of the repercussions of their behavior and habits and attempt to live their day-to-day lives sustainably. Although the issue stems from everyone, the chances of significant change are especially dependent on the affluent and powerful. They naturally produce the largest carbon footprint, but also have the wealth and the resources to make an impactful difference. It is necessary for them to take notice and, more importantly, take action. With the continuing popularity of climate strike protests, it is going to get harder and harder for them to deny what’s happening. Climate change will undoubtedly play a major role in our lives, but if we want to minimize its impact and protect our future, immediate change is needed.

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