community outreach

The Change is in Our Hands

By Joseph Mel, age 17

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Tweet from President Donald J. Trump in November 2012

Climate change has become a prevalent environmental issue within current day society. The sea-levels are rising due to the polar ice caps melting, there is an increased humidity throughout areas where there shouldn’t be, and oceans are also increasing in temperature. Humanity is one of the causes of such a fast decline in our environment. From large industries such as animal agriculture, or companies that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, to fast fashion, these are all industries that can be both unethical and harmful towards the environment. One may argue that these are factors that we cannot control, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every person has a carbon footprint which is a receipt of how they contribute to carbon emissions as well as general waste that enables climate change.

One reason why this is a pressing issue is because people are failing to accept the fact that climate change is real. Greta Thunberg is a teenage activist who began her mission on fighting the climate crisis by sitting outside the Swedish parliament while she was meant to be in school. Even President Donald J. Trump has been vocal about her actions tweeting, “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” This is a demonstration of how having someone with as much influence as the president, shaming and discrediting someone who is shining light on an issue, can further cause it to be swept under the rug. Furthermore, in popular culture it is common to label people who are considerate about the environment “hippies” and depict them as spaced out personalities that are conservative in this regard. This contributes to the lack of consideration on the climate crisis because it gives the masses who watch the media a false sense of what is actually happening. Moreover, this generates a stereotype amongst people who are trying to bring attention to these issues, which automatically retreats the masses who are already skeptical of the topic. Although, there has been a bit of progression due to protests that send a message to the higher-ups of these corporations that change should come

The real examples lie within the ecosystems that are failing and the people that are suffering on behalf of climate change. An example of this includes the Caribbean coral reefs and how it has a timeline to only exist for twenty more years. While pollution and a case of tragedy of the commons may seem to also play a role in this ecosystem, climate change leads to the warming of ocean temperatures which in turn leads to coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is a process in which corals are influenced by the changes in the ocean from temperature or light. Then the coral turns white due to the change in algae living in the cells of the coral. This then affects the species that live in this ecosystem, leading to a lack in biodiversity. Similarly, humans once again, can be credited for the harm that is coming to society. There are many industries that exploit the environment that as people no one really thinks much about. An example of this is the animal agriculture industry. This industry cuts down hundreds of acres of trees in order to adjust for farming land that will raise livestock. This system is in order to mass produce meat for the consumption of people in the U.S. A problem with this is how in order to produce all this meat it comes at the expense of cutting down trees, which is harmful as it adds to carbon dioxide emissions. Then raising animals such as cows also contributes to the greenhouse gases since they are given specific hormones in their food in order to make them grow large enough to slaughter. They then release gas which contributes to the greenhouse emissions.

Another human contribution to the climate crisis is something that wouldn’t really be expected: the fashion industry. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. It takes away original ideas from designers on the runway and makes a knock-off version just two weeks later. Production is cheap and low quality through unethical overseas sweatshops that import this clothing. Fast fashion is typically unsustainable as it now takes “roughly 145 million tons of coal and between 1.5 and 2 trillion gallons of water” to produce fiber. This overuse of material contributes to the tragedy of the commons, a phenomenon that states that the more we use earth’s natural resources, the quicker we run out of them. Additionally since fast fashion is cheap, low quality, and designed to be disposed of once it’s out of style, most clothing items end up in landfills. 80 percent of our textiles are doomed to this fate and can sit on the planet as a pollutant while they take up to 200 years to decompose, releasing methane and further contributing to climate change. Fast fashion overall is another contributing factor to our planet’s demise that only consumers (regular people) can change.

Climate change is a pressing issue that only humanity can resolve through their lifestyle decisions. If society truly invested the time to understand all of these facets to the decline of ecosystems, then we would be on the road to recovery. It is only a matter of time before things become irreversible. On an international scale, we must protect our planet from this exhaust in order to preserve it for generations to come. Finally, I leave you with this, is this going to be a generation that leads to the demise of our planet due to the economic powers and political agendas that completely disregard the safety of our environment? Or are we going to protect Mother Earth the best we can?

This post was originally published in April 2020.

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