EDITORIAL: Students energize fight against climate change

By Editorial Board

Shane Tolentino

On March 15, students worldwide walked out of their schools to protest their governments’ failure to address climate change. There were more than 2,000 events in over 100 countries, and these events were arranged by elementary, middle and high school students. Student activists said they were inspired by the Parkland, Florida, teens’ reaction to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last year. Sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

According to the Youth Climate Strike website, the student activists’ core demands are passing the Green New Deal, pushing for all legislation to be supported by science, keeping water and lands clean, enacting climate education and creating a fair transition into an eco-friendly world for communities reliant on fossil fuels. They offer comprehensive solutions including reforestation, changes to the agriculture industry and individual contributions.

These students may be young, but their commitment to making real and long-lasting change should not be taken lightly. Climate change is an issue that is already affecting every person on earth, and the effects will only compound with time unless drastic solutions are taken. If students as young as fifth grade can see the importance of fighting for the environment’s future, there are no reasons but greed and apathy to prevent adults with power from listening to them.

As college students, we need to recognize that we have the ability to make substantial changes. It is so easy to become apathetic about the environment when we are busy with day-to-day life and when the changes are happening slowly enough to ignore. It is easy to feel disenfranchised when so much of our lives are still dictated by others. We convince ourselves that we are doing enough by turning off the faucet when brushing our teeth and making sure to unplug our electronics when we leave the house.

But there is so much more we can do, and that fight starts with empowerment at every level. College students have more agency in the world than younger student activists by virtue of our age, so we have the ability to do more. We can bridge the gap between the generation that is coming up on our heels and the one that still holds power in our colleges, communities and courts. We can put pressure on our colleges to invest in green energy, composting and recycling. We can call our legislators and push for business regulations and the Green New Deal. We can go into communities and fight for access to clean water, renewable energy and sustainable food practices.

And if the only way to be heard by those in power is to leave our classrooms and workplaces to shout in the streets, then we will do that, too.

In the end, stopping climate change isn’t about saving the planet. Long after we have cannibalized ourselves, the earth will continue to exist and other forms of life will find ways to thrive. The planet will outlast us, but ending climate change is about us. Our city, country and world are being handed over to a new generation. We will meet the challenge head-on and use our heads, our hearts and our voices to save ourselves.