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.