I’m a junior in high school, which means most of my conversations revolve around the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Even answering this question is frustrating because I don’t think I’ll be 45. There are many people my age who try to ignore the death sentences that hang over our heads. Trying to look forward to the adult nightmare.
It’s not because of my disappointing lack of life skills or the fact that I’m a horrible person who jokes about dying young. That’s because I really don’t believe there will be a planet worth living in in the future.
In August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a paper that included a list of aspects of climate change that scientists are “almost certain” to be caused by humans. These include the increasing acidity of the oceans, which makes it difficult for corals and plankton to form shells while those already present dissolve. Why should you care about some tiny water bugs? Because it happens all over the world, and because the fish that people eat must eat too, and they won’t when the corals and plankton are all gone.
Human industrial production has also increased the temperature and volume of sea levels. The surface of the earth is getting hotter every year. It’s hotter than it has been in 6,500 years. Heat waves and “extreme heat cases” are increasing.
What should people my age do with this information? We have a great responsibility to ourselves to fix problems we didn’t cause. What is the point of launching this “dream career” if we don’t really have a great need for things like dentists or scriptwriters.
Outside of the heat, Santa Fe doesn’t experience much of the extreme weather that is wreaking havoc around the world. In addition, most Santa Fe residents have access to water that has not been poisoned by fracking, which uses dangerous chemicals and water to make oil while pumping methane into the atmosphere. Since many Santa Feans are not forced to watch the consequences of the Anthropocene, we can hide from it. We can easily protect ourselves by not caring for others.
You should still care for the 250,000 people estimated to die each year in disasters related to climate change through 2014. And 250,000 is the World Health Organization’s “conservative estimate”. By 2030 it should be half a million.
It is annoying to see how people who are probably too old to suffer the consequences of a murdered planet make the future of me and my colleagues a political issue. Things like declaring a climate emergency and pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050, as the European Union has done, are optimistic big steps, but it’s probably too much of either to ever become a reality.
If you are a young person reading this (or even if you aren’t – it’s just that most people your age don’t really seem to care) please don’t give up. There is still time to get involved and join groups like New Mexico’s Youth United for Climate Crisis Action.