I’ve seen my future, and it’s scary. It involves hurricanes, floods, destruction, mass evacuations, disease, and death. Hurricane Katrina and the week after it were a serious wakeup call for me.
Climate change promises me that in my lifetime, I will experience many more events like this. As a young person, I can’t help but gnash my teeth at the people and events that have led us to this crucial point in the world’s history, and wonder why we still refuse to acknowledge and take meaningful action against our own self-destruction.
As a young person, I believe it is my responsibility to pay attention to the world around me, to have hope for the future, and to effect positive change. But at this moment, hope is a little hard to come by.
As I look around me, I’m frightened. Climate change is happening. All I have to do is look back on the past year and remember the rain and mudslides in Southern California, the tornadoes in San Francisco, the hurricanes that hit Florida, the severe drought in the Midwest, and the deadly heat waves in the Southwest — all unprecedented and “out of the ordinary.”
All I have to do is watch the news right now and see the increasing outbreaks of West Nile virus all over the country and the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I just have to listen to stories from my home on the Navajo Nation about the difficulty of growing crops, raising animals, finding medicines, and living a traditional lifestyle. Taken as a whole, these kinds of events convince me that climate change is very real.
As I look around me, I’m also angry. Scientists, environmental and social-justice organizations, and regular people who live close to the earth have been warning us about this for decades. Our sickening addiction to fossil fuels; our need to constantly bulldoze, dig, and pump; our self-afflicted enslavement to the burning of coal, oil, and gas; our never-ending emissions of CO2 — all these causes of global warming are killing our planet, killing us, and killing our future.
And still, Americans continue to question the reality of climate change. Our government continues to ignore its risks and implications, and refuses to take action. Big energy continues to fight tooth and nail to preserve our fossil-fuel energy-based society, knowing full well our future is at stake. Why are our leaders sacrificing my future and the livelihood of future generations?
Looking at the world around me, I must admit, I’m discouraged by what I see. We are past the point of no return, and we will face many more Katrinas. In my lifetime, I’ll witness more destructive droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, widespread disease, refugees, and the extinction of plants, animals, and cultures.
But as a young person, it is my responsibility to have hope. I hope that in my lifetime, I will also witness an awakening and rebirth of our society, in which sustainability, equity, foresight, and compassion are valued. I believe that it is possible. I believe there is a better way to do things. And I believe that we have the ability to make this change.
As a young person, it is also my responsibility to go a step further and work to change things. Today, I work for organizations dedicated to the creation and implementation of climate policies that are efficient and fair for everyone. I work every day so that I can change what I don’t like in the world, and so that my hopes are realized.
But you don’t have to work for an environmental organization to make a difference. There are a number of things one can do to stop climate change, and it starts with paying attention to the world around you. These responsibilities belong to everyone. The fact that people have forgotten is the problem.