The climate is changing and so should we.
By Zoe Ong
School Strikes for Climate Change have been happening all over the world, but I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that. School strikes for Climate Change have gained wide media coverage, showing it in both positive and negative lights. It has drawn the public eye towards youth involvement in peaceful protest, sets the stage for our generation’s environmental efforts, our generation’s consciousness and what may be one of the biggest threats to humanity and the earth’s fertility. The world is facing a climate crisis and with only twelve years to act before the effects of climate change are irreversible, it’s time for action.
In case you didn’t know about the strikes, or you just wanted a recap of what they are, here’s some information: Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl sparked international school strikes with the intent of lobbying governments into taking real action against the climate crisis. Thunberg’s message rings true and clear as daunting as it may be. We have a long way to go, very little time and a global population that remains numb to the reality which is potentially our extinction and the extinction of the earth’s fertility. The School Strikes for Climate Change occurring globally are motivated and moved by students, young people that have decided to go on strike and show that in a semi-metaphorical sense, demand for action against climate change outranks that than our need for education. We have long been lectured about the importance of quality education, the opportunities that it opens for us and the key that it represents to every door we may encounter in our lives. However, it is not so often that we hear adults telling us about what our education will mean when the global average temperature has risen, oceans have risen, countless species have become extinct, deforestation has plagued all forests; it has been introduced to like a relentless disease corrupting it from the inside and in all honesty I would like to know - what will our education be worth then? Thunberg stated in a Ted Talk “why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future?”. It’s scary how much this message resonates with so many youths of our generation. Our education seems like an ongoing drag in our younger years, but there’s a long way to go past the gates of our school, past the HSC and past (if you should choose to pursue it) a secondary education. We are the first generation to have fully come to terms with the threat climate change poses to our existence, a deadline and the power to do something effective about it.
I could load this article with a bunch of statistics that are representative of the damage we’ve done and predictions for the damage we’re yet to do. I could put graphs and somewhat meaningless charts that represent the effects of climate change on our world - a crisis through numbers, but I won’t because using numbers to incite empathy is far less efficient than words. Too long the generations before us have viewed climate change in this way. Generations before us had some predictions of what was to come, half believed facts shunned by the public because people refused to accept that climate change was real, but most importantly, they had time. Time is a luxury we don’t have.
Arguably, the days of scare tactics are over. We don’t have enough time to think about the climate crisis as something that we set the time and date for, it’s too late to scare people into changing. In the face of an existential crisis, fear is something that needs to be incited by the event itself, not the people facing it. Those days are over - no more scaring, no more disbelief, it’s right here before us and it’s the unshakable truth. There’s only one way to go once everyone’s ready to accept that climate change is one of the biggest threats to our existence - change.
1. Think Sustainable
Thinking sustainably is one of the best ways to make an individual effort. Spare a small thought to make a big change. Changing the way and what you eat, as well as where you source your clothes and other goods can make a big difference. I’m not entirely well versed in economics or commerce, but no demand means no supply. Going vegan is usually met with negative social reaction, stigmatised as the new ‘hipster trend’ of the 2000s, but it’s worth a shot and makes a huge difference to the agricultural side of change. Websites like Rank a Brand also help consumers better understand the sustainability of the companies and goods they purchase from them.
2. Reduce water waste
Reducing water waste is simple yet rewarding. The amount of water you use directly contributes to your carbon footprint, so reducing and being more efficient with your water use means reducing your carbon footprint. Pumping, heating and treating water takes a lot of energy, probably far more than you could even fathom. Obviously, you can take shorter showers, don’t leave the tap running unnecessarily and sometimes washing dishes in a dishwasher saves more energy than washing them by hand (depending on the model), but for long term solutions talk to your parents about switching to fixtures and appliances that are designed for minimal water wastage. In America, the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if one out of every one hundred American homes were fitted with water-efficient features, about 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year would be saved, avoiding 80 000 tons of global warming pollution.
3. Think about your carbon footprint
Think about how much electricity you use and how to be energy smart. Knowing who your energy provider also helps, are they moving towards sustainable renewable energy or still relying on fossil fuels and ‘caveman coal to make the shiny spark’? Investing in solar panels for your home, using LED bulbs, driving fuel-efficient cars (or even better, taking public transport) or maybe even walking makes changes far beyond your home, extending to how companies source their energy and their carbon footprint. Being more aware of your carbon footprint and electricity usage can save the world and money!
4. Stop being sensitive - politics and policy
It seems that since the very beginning of Australia’s history there’s been a general disdain and disassociation from politics and the leaders of our nation. Politics has become something to be somewhat ashamed about, people are too scared to talk about it and too unwilling to do anything about it. Politics is key in the future. School strikes for Climate Change have already sent a clear and direct message about our generation’s demand for policy making to stop the crisis but there’s a lot more to be done. The world needs strong leaders in the face of the growing adversities thrown at us and it’s important to realise that politics isn’t anything we should shy away from, it’s something that all of us need to speak up about in a constructive manner to ensure that it does what it’s meant to do effectively - represent the views of the people, acknowledge challenges and find solutions. Although the election has just passed us, make sure you keep watching our government, its policies and how they affect climate change. Being educated on voting day is also important, so a reminder for the future - do your research on the different parties and their approach to the policy regarding climate change before you head into any polling booths!
5. Speak out
It’s time to stop being afraid. I went through a first aid course once and my instructor told us that when approaching a wounded person, you were to allow yourself five seconds to panic before you had to get over it and get into action. Five seconds seems like a really short amount of time (and in reality it is), but in the face of crisis and an emergency where lives are on the line, it seems like a luxury. It’s time to be heard. Time for acknowledgement instead of acceptance, time for forward-thinking, time to speak out and time for a change. There will never be change without protest, no movement without a force behind it - look at any historical revolution and it’ll back me up on that one. Join protests, sign petitions, speak up. Your voice matters immensely, strength in power, solidarity - you get what I mean. It’s your chance to make a change. We have a platform now, we have a lot to say and there are a lot of people waiting to hear it. Even if you don’t think you’ll be heard (you will most definitely be heard), you’ll never know if you never try.
I’m sure none of us want to be the generation that had the power to do something but didn’t. Climate change poses a threat to our species and countless more, but it’s a threat, not a has been an event that’s passed us by. It’s lingering on our horizon but we have the ability to do something about it. Education, leadership, bravery, selflessness, solidarity - they’re all values we’re going to need when we’re facing the climate crisis. Small changes in our everyday lives make an immense impact on the greater scheme of things. Speak up, speak out. They’ve deemed us Gen Z, but I’m sure none of us wants to be the last. Together in unity, it’s time to end climate change, once and for all.