As an environmentally conscious teenager, I am keenly aware that the people of my generation are the future custodians of our planet.

Zhou

Zhou

We will in turn be responsible for cleaning up the messes currently being made of our environment.

Current projections of climate change impacts include more frequent and more damaging coastal flooding, an increased likelihood of severe weather events and droughts, along with the related economic impacts. This is all predicted to happen within my lifetime. It’s a heavy topic to think about, and more than a little overwhelming. Wondering if I was alone in my alarm, I discussed climate change with some classmates. It turns out they also have serious concerns about our planet’s future.

One student believes that climate change affects the entire world, and she is concerned that some people don’t care about it very much. She fears that the planet will have a dramatically decreased capacity to support humans.

She is understandably frustrated by the lack of action, and by the slow rate that solutions, like renewable energy sources, are being adopted. She worries about how resistance by special interests may delay climate-change solutions until the problem is beyond fixing. It seems to her that even though the facts are there, nothing is really happening, and it distresses her that the people with the most power to address climate change don’t share her sense of urgency.

To an analytically minded classmate, the most troubling aspect of climate change is that people are not concerned enough about climate change. He blames this on confusion surrounding the scientific evidence. Scientists understood the nuances of climate change, but were untrained to explain their findings.

In his experience, citizens who believe in climate change occasionally use convenient, but not scientifically sound arguments, which unfortunately leaves room for skepticism. His proposed solution is to set up scientific demonstrations, so people can see the actual science for themselves.

But he speculated that some people still might not believe the science because they would rather invent a flaw in the demonstration than change their own beliefs. Rampant misinformation, he feels, is lulling people into a false sense of security.

Another classmate worries about how climate change would lead to degradation of natural places, which she sees as integral to wellness. She feels that appreciation for nature is innate because nature is what humans are wired for, and people need nature as a place to retreat from the crowds, the rush and the pollution of cities.

To her, nature is a place of calm and quiet, somewhere to focus and regenerate. She recounted some of the sights she had seen in national parks: a lush meadow blooming with wildflowers, a glacial lake crystal clear all the way to the bottom, and an amazing amount of untouched land.

She became animated when describing her experiences and her tone took on a dreamy quality. Merely thinking about nature seemed to improve her mood. From her observation of other tourists, enjoyment of nature is universal, even for people who don’t consider themselves outdoorsy types. Natural places are worth protecting because they bring so much intrinsic value to people.

She concluded our conversation by asking: Didn’t we want the people after us to be able to appreciate these places?

The concerns of my classmates varied, but they all agreed that climate change is a major problem requiring immediate attention.

I asked each of them why those in charge don’t see it the same way. A frank response I received from one classmate was that those in charge aren’t as concerned because they aren’t not going to be around to suffer the consequences. I asked her why these leaders don’t think about their children and grandchildren, who will be around to deal with the consequences.

It seems contradictory that parents, who would do anything to ensure a better future for their children, refuse to address such a grave threat to that future. She replied that she didn’t think they thought about it that way.

From my perspective, the generations older than me and my classmates need to start thinking about climate change in this way because it’s my generation’s future that is under threat, and we urge that action be taken before it is too late.

Yining (Tracy) Zhou is a junior at Onalaska High School who is passionate about environmental issues and a member of the La Crosse chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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