The world is ending and it’s not aliens with orange skin and exotic hair that are destroying it -- although slightly responsible. It is us. Soon enough, planet Earth will be decimated by the huge, orange, glowing sphere of hot gas it circles if we don't take action against climate change.
It is understandable that with Instagram, the Kardashians, and Pepsi commercials, we have other things to worry about than the inevitable doom we’re heading towards. However, climate change is already impacting our world in countless ways. Polar bears are losing their habitats and dying. Imagine, the beautiful ruler of the ice caps, being the next thing Kendall Jenner hands a Pepsi to.
Young people play a critical role in preventing this tragedy according to Dr. David Nurenberg, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University and a teacher with G.L.O.B.E Consortium, which educates teens about global warming, green technology, and how young people can get involved.
Dr. Nurenberg stated that climate change is already impacting lives around the world in the form of shifting weather patterns, changes in the populations and behavior of local species, and rising sea levels. “Even if we were to somehow halt human-caused global warming tomorrow, these effects would still persist and increase in magnitude for decades into the future. This is the future in which teens will become adults, try and raise families, and it looks to be a future in which all of those things will be harder for them than it was for my generation.”
The neglect of the environment today will impact tomorrow’s world. 2016 was the hottest year on record. The warming of the planet caused destruction through habitat loss, extreme hurricanes and severe heat waves all around the world. We have to start making the changes needed to curb these tragedies now, before the things we take for granted become inaccessible, out of reach, and there will be no going back.
Some adults, and even more teens, believe that young people can’t do much to help. It can often seem that this generation’s voices are not important and opinions are useless. Most of us have already given up on taking part in change because we feel powerless. But that is completely false.
Dr. Nurenberg explained that the idea of teenagers not having a voice is a “carefully constructed myth designed to keep teens quiet, inactive and cynical consumers.”
Teenagers have been changing the world for a long time. Take William Kamkwamba, a Malawian boy who built a windmill to power his home at age 14. Taylor Wilson, also at age 14, built a nuclear fusion reactor, which he believes can be a solution to our future energy needs. Kamkwamba and Wilson are prime examples of teenagers who didn’t wait to become “someone important” before they took action, and we need to join them.
Anthony Zeng is a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant High School and a member of the Alliance For Climate Education (ACE). He and dozens of other teenagers fight climate change by advocating to their local legislative members and empowering other teens to join the battle. They recently petitioned for 100% renewable energy in schools and spoke with Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley. They plan and organize events like teach-ins and rallies. Zeng and other ACE members contribute time, action and youth voices in the climate change movement. They are models for students who falsely believe their voices don't matter.
Dr. Nurenberg suggested other ways teens can take action today. “Teens can organize carbon reduction programs, recycling and reuse efforts. They can campaign for political candidates (even if they can't vote) and they can organize boycotts or other shifts in their and others' buying patterns. Teens today have more access and facility with social media than any other generation, so they can use it to spread and magnify the effects of the work they do.”
Teenagers are capable of creating positive change. They bring in new perspectives, ideas, and a much needed spirit. As a result, their contributions are vital in helping polar bears survive -- without Kendall Jenner's help.