Help! I’m being Climate Changed!
by: Young Writers Posted on: August 21, 2012
Photo: Maureen Ryan, Fairhaven College, Climate Adaptation Class, Spring 2012
Editor’s Note: David Trapp [second to the right] is a student at Fairhaven College, Western Washington University. He is from Seattle and has spent most of his life in the Pacific Northwest. He will be designing his concentration this fall, which will predominantly focus on energy and agriculture as sustainable systems. David is our Read the Dirt-Growing Washington Cooperative Summer Intern.
Being an environmentally conscious college student, I often hear about climate change, global warming, and future bearings of present behaviors. I read articles discussing the changing climate and its impact on glaciers, sea levels, and migrations; I watch interviews with activists, scientists, and politicians; and I hear predictions of how it will impact my future, my generation’s future, and the future of all generations to come. Though there’s massive media coverage, hundreds of campaigns, and thousands upon thousands of essays discussing the steps necessary to reduce the future impacts of climate change, when I look at my generation, I’m generally disappointed. My generation presumes to acknowledge the theory of anthropogenic climate change as a world crisis (comparable to WWI or WWII: where inaction produces disastrous consequences), yet refuses to recognize that shifting easy habits, such as driving less or purchasing a reusable water bottle, will not rectify this. A societal shift, a conversion of lifestyles, is required.
This state in which my generation lives, the acceptance that something’s wrong yet the refusal to recognize the size of the steps required to fix the problem, spawns from a belief that we have inherited climate change. That our irresponsible and over-consumptive ancestors have pulled a fast one on us, and spent the last couple centuries producing as much greenhouse gases as possible, having the time of their lives and now we have come home and need to clean up after the party. From this stems a sense of victimization, that we have been wounded, wronged, and now suffer from this great injustice. That we’ve been, so to speak, climate changed.
This sense of victimhood allows my generation to create a mental separation between our current actions and the impacts on the climate that follow and the responsibility that comes with these choices. We (by we I mean most, not all, as there are those taking the mandatory steps to reduce climate change, and I’ll get to them in a bit) fail to recognize that we’re actively partaking in and increasing the rate of destruction to our planet. Recognizing climate change as fact, while a first step, is not enough anymore. We can no longer remain a disheartened mass of passive climate changers who justify inaction through fear, laziness, and a refusal to recognize it as our problem and our fault. We remain in this paralysis state, admitting that climate change is real and generated by our actions, yet refusing to grasp the gravity of the situation and the resulting level of energy needed to correct the path our society is headed down. It seems as though large portions of us are waiting for that silver bullet, that incredible, awe-inspiring technology which will allow us to remain in our consumptive lifestyles, while combating climate change. We fail to see inaction as the worst action we can take. We don’t have that silver bullet, and probably never will, so we need to begin to follow in the footsteps of those who are taking the necessary action to fight climate change.
There are members of our generation who are fighting climate change in their own individual battles. Those who are fighting the use of coal as an energy source in Missouri and throughout the Midwest. Groups who refuse to accept factory farms as the best way to feed our society and helping to reform our agriculture. Individuals designing more efficient and clean energy sources. Whole communities fighting for community rights over corporate rights. And though none of these are the perfect answer necessary to combat climate change, each one, in its own way, is fundamental to reducing our impact on the climate. But there are still many voids waiting to be filled.
These individuals, groups, and communities and their acts are essential and critical, but their efforts are not enough. We need to come together and take this problem head on, as one collective generation. And we need to enjoy it, see it as a challenge that calls on our highest creativity, our most untapped talents, our most vibrant selves. We have the basic components to leave a legacy far surpassing any generation before us. The last generation didn’t know the impacts until the party was over. We do, and the aftermath of the party our descendents inherit could inspire or disappoint. We face a problem so drastic, its impacts will be felt globally, cross-species, for generations to come, yet we must never lose hope. We have the capacity, the imagination, the skills, the know-how, and the technology to fight climate change. The one thing we are missing is the acceptance that we, just like our ancestors before us, are part of the cause. Only then, after assuming responsibility, can we break free from victimhood and fight climate change on our terms.
Simply put, if we drink water, breath air, eat food, or just so happen to live on this earth, our home, climate change is our responsibility, is caused by us, will affect us, and as such, is our problem. But it’s also our opportunity. Never forget that with great power comes great responsibility, but the inverse is also true. It’s scary to think that we can have an impact on something as big as our climate, but scarier still is the idea that at some point in the future, when our children ask us about climate change, we might have to respond with “yes, we were aware of our actions, yet we chose to do nothing”.
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