Written Anyi Cheng and Maya Rapoport
Hand-in-hand with a rapid rise in consumerism are elements that perpetuate the deterioration of the planet’s environments at a rate far faster than many voters are aware of. What follows is a dangerously ignorant and passive approach to a global issue—one that will almost certainly result in catastrophic consequences that affect not just a few, but literally every person on the planet if citizens do not take action and political parties continue to deny the existence of climate change.
Students and educators alike are obligated to, first and foremost, understand that climate change is a real and pressing issue. Furthermore, citizens must begin to act responsibly, not only changing their own lifestyles to minimize deleterious environmental impact but to also advocate and vote for municipal, state and federal policies that prioritize slowing climate change. Although such choices and actions will cost people time, effort and, in some cases, money, the results are crucial and already long overdue.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), climate change is defined as an overall change in the Earth’s climate. The greenhouse effect, in which gases such as water vapor, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane rise to the atmosphere and block heat from escaping, is one of the biggest causes of climate change. According to NASA, the greenhouse effect is causing an annual increase in global temperature. Activities relatively recent in human history, such as the burning of fossil fuels, have increased the carbon dioxide buildup in atmosphere, aggravating the greenhouse effect. The increase in global temperature has caused oceans to become warmer and ice sheets and glaciers to melt. As a result, the sea level has been rising at a steady rate of 3.4 millimeters per year, as reported by NASA. In addition to expanding oceans, climate change has caused an increase in drastic natural events such as droughts and heat waves. There has also been an increase in record high temperatures throughout the world and ocean acidification, impacting many sea creatures.
Thus, it is evident that climate change is a real and serious issue. Politically-based denial of such a large-scale issue is absolutely unacceptable, especially among those who have the ability to change their habits and behaviors to alleviate the impending negative effects climate change will have on the globe. For example, at an individual level, students have the power to alter even small aspects of their lifestyles to reduce the effects of climate change. By turning off their lights, unplugging electronics when fully charged or using cold water to wash their clothes, students can limit their use of energy and electricity. To reduce their individual carbon footprint, students can carpool with friends, use public transportation or bike and walk. Students can also reduce the amount of meat in their diet, as the meat industry has a large negative impact on the environment. In 2011, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization stated in a report that nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gasses sourced from agriculture come directly from livestock, largely due to dairy cows and beef cattle. It is understandable if people are unwilling to go entirely vegan or vegetarian, but choosing chicken at Chipotle over steak is an easy and small, yet significant choice. The best way anyone can make an impact is by making mindful, conscious decisions about their lifestyle and behavior. Understanding the impact of any choice, from leaving the air conditioner on to grocery shopping will, in the end, make a difference.
In that same vein, it is crucial for students to educate themselves on policies affecting the environment and voice their opinions. Although young adults tend to complain often about social and political issues on social media, to make a direct impact on government policies surrounding the environment, students should vote responsibly once they are able to.