We must keep up momentum against climate change

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In New York on September 21, about 400,000 people participated in the largest march against climate change in history according to Time Network. The march was timed to occur just before the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday.

When reading about these well-attended events, I thought about how great it was that there are people that are fighting against climate change, and there are those who still prioritize that fight. Honestly, I felt a little surprised that so many people showed up because I wrongfully assumed that many people felt distanced from this issue. But, I didn’t feel any obligation to take action myself. And for me, that tendency toward passivity is relatively new.

If you have gone through secondary school any time in the past decade, you have likely been educated about the state and potential implications of climate change.

I remember being horrified during school assemblies dealing with climate change. I wondered about what could happen to us, and I felt a pressing guilt for my inactivity thus far.

I started recycling everything, I unplugged all my electronics when I wasn’t using them, and I turned off all unnecessary lights. But, my motivation didn’t last.

We all know that consequences of global climate change are coming. So, why hasn’t more been done to solve the problem?

Personally, there is too much dissonance between my educated, social and happy life at the University and the possible repercussions of climate change. Though I’m well aware that climate change is a fact backed by scientific evidence and consensus, it seems almost unrealistic.

It is hard to stay motivated when you can’t see the results immediately, and it’s hard to remain interested when you feel so disconnected from the effects.

It’s also difficult to take the effort to be environmentally-friendly when you know that so many of your peers aren’t doing the same. I know my decisions will not have a great effect alone, and if not everyone is willing to act together, it’s hard to convince myself to do my part. Because what’s the point in acting alone? 

But, we do have to make use of our agency. We have to act as individuals, as a nation, as well as in a global sense to prioritize climate change.

We have to do what we can on an individual level to make the effort to recycle and to conserve energy. But, we also have to push for larger, more united efforts.

We need to show support and push for policy changes like those who marched in New York. We have a responsibility to weigh the importance of environmental policy before we cast ballots or support political figures.

I understand there are a multitude of other concerning terror and health threats that are commanding the world’s attention. I know that they are fresh and they must be given attention. In comparison, climate change often seems like a less pressing issue because of how long it has been present in our lives. But, we need to give it equal consideration.

Then, even if we are motivated to act, slowing or stopping climate change may have some unfortunate economic implications. Of course, countries that choose not to feel the burden of changing environmental policy will have more freedom to make their policy decisions solely based on what is good for their economy. 

If not concerned about climate change, a country can mine, deforest, create carbon emissions and pollute as much as they like for fiscal purposes.

President Obama, at the United Nations Summit spoke about those economic risks, “In each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don’t — that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead.”

Regardless of the possible economic risks, we have to take strong and decisive action or prepare ourselves to face the possible catastrophic consequences. If our lack of agency continues, we’ll be at much greater risk for seeing higher sea levels, more natural disasters and of course higher temperatures.

We cannot push climate change to the wayside simply because we have grown used to the idea. The longer we sit with the idea of climate change, the more we feel comfortable with it. But of course, the longer we sit with the idea of climate change, the more dangerous it becomes.

Climate change is probably one of the largest afflictions of our generations, and the generations coming after us, and it affects every area of the world.

I don’t want to catch myself pleasantly surprised at a climate change rally or a high turn out at a climate change summit. Those events should be commonplace and part of a greater effort to keep up momentum and push for both individual conservation and changes in environmental policy.

Alex is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]