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 once is frustrating because I don’t think I’ll make it to 45. There are a lot of people my age who try to ignore the death sentences hanging over our heads. Trying to look forward to the nightmare that is adulthood.

It’s not because of my disappointing lack of life skills or because I’m a horrible person who jokes about dying young. It’s because I genuinely don’t think there will be a livable planet 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 scientists are “virtually certain” were caused by humans. These include the increasing acidity in the oceans, which makes it harder for coral to grow and for plankton to form shells while dissolving the ones that already exist. Why should you care about some tiny water bugs? Because it’s happening all around the world, and because the fish people eat also have to eat, and they won’t be able to if the coral and plankton are all gone.

Human industrial production also has caused the sea level to rise in temperature and volume. The surface of the Earth is getting hotter with every year. It’s hotter now than it has been in 6,500 years. Heat waves and “incidences of extreme heat” are on the rise.

What are people my age supposed to do with this information? We have a huge responsibility to ourselves to fix problems we did not create. What’s the point of hustling toward that “dream career” when we’re not really going to have a huge need for occupations like dentists or screenwriters.

Outside of heat, Santa Fe doesn’t experience a lot of the extreme weather that wreaks havoc across the globe. Additionally, most Santa Fe residents have access to water that hasn’t been poisoned by fracking, which uses dangerous chemicals and water to extract oil, while pumping methane into the atmosphere. Since a lot of Santa Feans aren’t being forced to look at the consequences of the Anthropocene, we can hide from it. We can easily protect ourselves by not caring about others.

You should still care about the 250,000 people who, as of 2014, are estimated to die each year in climate change-related disasters. And 250,000 is the “conservative estimate” from the World Health Organization. This number is expected to reach half a million by 2030.

It’s infuriating to watch people who are likely too old to suffer the consequences of a murdered planet turn the future of myself and my peers into a political issue. Things like declaring a climate emergency and promising to become carbon neutral by 2050, as the European Union has, are optimistic, huge steps, but it’s probably too much of both of those things to ever become a reality.

If you’re a young person reading this (or even if you’re not — it’s just that most people your age don’t really seem to care), please don’t give up. There’s still time to get involved and join groups, like New Mexico’s Youth United for Climate Crisis Action.

Emma Meyers is a junior at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at emmawritingacc@gmail.com.

(12) comments

Bill Cass

Emma, your passion is admirable, but your facts are incorrect. Just yesterday CNN (the bastion of conservatism) reported that the models upon which much of climate "science" is based have been wrong. The earth has been warming and cooling for centuries. When I was your age we were told that "global cooling" was the enemy. Then "global warming." Nothing new under the sun.

Dave Weymouth

Emma, congratulations for speaking out on the critical issue of human caused climate change. You are correct in your concern about the need for change in human activity. However, there is some justification for being hopeful that we humans can change to a more sustainable way of living. In the US we have had disinformation campaigns on climate change from corporations in gas and oil exploration, the auto and travel industries, and often directly from elected officials. However, that is changing. Most Americans are realizing we have serious problems and need to begin lowering our carbon footprint as a society and as individuals. I would encourage you to examine the country of Sweden and what they have accomplished. In the past 40 years or so they reduced their per capita carbon footprint, from what was equal to the US average by around 70%. Also, they simultaneously maintained one of the highest economic standards in the world. It can be done. I have attached a link to a discussion of their approach. Don’t give up. We also can do this. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1145908

Barry Rabkin

Or better, move to Sweden or Norway. Or to any country that is willing to cede their national sovereignty - and freedoms - to the UN or to the Climate Change Inquisition.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup]Exactly Mr Rabkin, I lived in Norway for many years, couldn't wait to come home and live in freedom. Sweden is also not a role model for anything.

Paul Kamprath

In this tragic future you expect, why would there be no dentists or screenwriters? :-) Also, regarding the complaint that - people your age have a huge responsibility to fix problems that you did not create - About all I can say to that is: Welcome To The World! Every generation, including mine and my parents before them ad infinitum, has blamed the people before them for the problems in the world. Your task is no different than anyone else's since the beginning of time. Did you think you came into a perfect world and could just kick your feet up and have nothing difficult to do? As for you thinking that you'll only live to be 45, you'll probably live twice that long; so get busy and start fixing things :-) Lastly, if you think we're too old "to suffer the consequences of a murdered planet," some of us think that we already came into and live on a murdered planet and if it hadn't been for all of the good that we have done then things would be much worse for you. Be grateful that you have the chance and the opportunity to be part of the solution for which we have all been working. Write something again about what you have done when you're 45 :-) Paz y mejores deseos.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]Well said, the voice of reason, experience, and education, get some Emma.

Mike Johnson

Wow! Talk about irrational paranoia. This is sad to see in young people, the ignorance is astounding.

Robert Fields

Wow, Mike. How is it you always come down hard on the wrong side of everything? What this person fears is legitimate. The planet is warming and that is having all sorts of repercussions. Serious repercussions that do indeed threaten all of our futures but especially the futures of the younger generation.

Older generations have all had threats to their futures but there was always hope for a better one. What young people are seeing now is fading hope for their futures. How do you plan for a future with global warming and climate change hanging over your head? We don’t live underground.

The climate change folks have incorporated “scenarios” into their predictions now. Global temperatures in the future now are graphs with lots of lines where each line is calculated assuming humans behave various ways with regards to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They are called SSPs - shared socioeconomic pathways - and represent various levels of humans working to reduce emissions.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01125-x

Unfortunately we are on a path that sets us up for some big temperature gains to the point that the planet gets as warm as what has triggered mass extinctions in the past. Ecosystems collapse. The measurements are fuzzy still and there are error bars, but the worst case scenario has this coming around the year 2100. Real problems could easily happen well before then or we could get lucky and things happen later. But we are only 79 years out from 2100. Many alive now might otherwise be alive to see it if they last that long.

It’s a little like A Christmas Carol. Thanks to climate studies we get to see what our future could look like but also how if we change our ways we can avert that bleak future. We’ve still locked in quite a bit of warming, but we don’t have to have a mass extinction event if we will just act and start now.

Why you are so dead set against anyone doing anything is a mystery to me. You constantly push for people to do the wrong things. What’s astonishing, Mike, is to see this level of ignorance in older people. Ms. Meyers is the one who gets it. You obviously don’t.

Mike Johnson

I'm glad you mentioned SSPs, have you even looked at them? Apparently not, here is what one of the lead architects of them says about them:"Dr.Brian O’Neill, the director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Maryland at College Park, has a clearer view of this question than most of us. He was one of the lead architects of the five different futures—called “shared socioeconomic pathways,” or SSPs—developed for the latest IPCC report. The path we seem to be on, at least for now, looks closer to SSP 2, which the authors call “Middle of the Road.” This is a world in which “social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns.” A world, in other words, in which we do not heroically rise to the occasion to fix things, but in which we also don’t get much worse than we already are."

But here's the stunner: "One thing he wants to make very clear is that all the paths, even the hottest ones, show improvements in human well-being on average. IPCC scientists expect that average life expectancy will continue to rise, that poverty and hunger rates will continue to decline, and that average incomes will go up in every single plausible future, simply because they always have. “There isn’t, you know, like a Mad Max scenario among the SSPs,” O’Neill said. Climate change will ruin individual lives and kill individual people, and it may even drag down rates of improvement in human well-being, but on average, he said, “we’re generally in the climate-change field not talking about futures that are worse than today.”"

Sorry, nothing much to worry about here, but ignorance about them is what I worry about, in this teen and of course you.....

https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/620605/?fbclid=IwAR24qiFfuZsu2epI2fezYwu3jGROdoHZSq7ICwz80GBdpI79zQqVDEy4JVA

Robert Fields

Jeeze, Mike. Do we have to keep pointing out the obvious to you? So what if standard of living goes up for a while if we hold course? The earth is still heating - even on a middle of the road path (which we are not on, btw) - and at some point that standard of living turns into scrounging for food once the planet gets too hot to support big agriculture as we know it now.

You are arguing for the status quo (which you always do) as this lets you live your life of obscene excess without guilt. But only a very few SSPs result in decreasing temperatures or even temperatures just not continuing to increase. Any fool can tell you that lines showing increasing temperatures indicate, duh, increasing temperatures. And if the earths average temperature continues to increase, at some point it gets too hot to support life as we know it.

What about any of the increasing temperature scenarios makes you think the planet won’t eventually get too hot? The only way anyone can justify continuing behaviors that keep the planet heating is to admit you don’t give a flip about the consequences for your actions that others will eventually have to deal with. You think you will die before the chickens come home to roost.

That’s about the most short-sighted and selfish way to look at the climate crisis but I expect nothing less from you. In other threads you have said you don’t have grandkids to worry about so let everyone else eat cake, eh, Marie?

And responding to a young person afraid of what the future holds for them thanks to our behaviors the way you did is shameful. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Fields, as a Ph.D. earth scientist I feel an obligation to correct scientific misinformation with the facts, as shown by the SSPs in my link, and a teenager needs to know the truth from experts, not the partisan press or political scientists. Hopefully before long this teen can get an education and experience to help with the ignorance that exists currently.

Robert Fields

Mike, you aren’t correcting misinformation. You are denying facts with your own misinformation, misinterpretations, and purposeful omissions.

Your middle of the road / increasing standard of living scenario causes the planet to continue to heat - yes or no?

The earth can only heat for so long before it becomes incapable of supporting life as we know it - yes or no?

Where does the behavior you advocate cause earth temperatures to decrease? It doesn’t. You are advocating behaviors that will cause civilization unsustainability and deny billions a chance for the same kind of life you think is worth ruining their futures over.

How is it you are so willing to deny others that which you hold so dear? Your precious Corvettes and however else you waste resources are worth more to you than other peoples’ lives, livelihoods, and futures? We know the answer. You won’t even just shut up and let others do the heavy lifting. You have to interject your criticisms and misinformation to derail conversations that might get others to do their parts. So you don’t want to help. Fine. At least get out of the way.

Your Ph.D. isn’t worth much when you tarnish it like you always do.

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