On Sept. 20, young people all over the world will be marching to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Many adults are skeptical of their motives, asking whether this is just a social media trend, or an excuse to skip school. Unfortunately, not.
As a member of the local chapter of the Climate Reality Project, I give presentations on the climate crisis here in the Susquehanna Valley and I always get a clear message from young people in the audience. They tell me they don’t need to hear me talk about the evidence for the climate crisis, the so-called “gloom and doom.” What they really want to hear is what we’re going to do about it. They know that the climate crisis is happening because they have seen its effects worsen during their lifetimes and they can see how it will affect their future. At this point, they’ve had enough of waiting for adults to act and they’ve started to raise their own voices.
In the past couple of years, all over the world, young people have been striking for climate action. Groups like Fridays for Future, Zero Hour, and the Sunrise Movement have been saying enough is enough. Kids are organizing marches, staging sit-ins outside the offices of their representatives, planting trees, and changing the way they live to be more sustainable. They know we need to move away from the fossil fuels that are the biggest cause of the problem and they are willing to make changes to their lives to contribute to a broader solution. They get it.
Take Greta Thunberg, for example. She is the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who told her parents that if adults were not going to take the climate crisis seriously and plan for a livable future, she didn’t see the point in planning for the future either, and she stopped going to school. Next, she started voicing her concerns, first at home with school strikes for climate and then on the international stage. Greta has just arrived in the U.S. to speak to the U.N. Climate Summit and will participate in the COP25 Climate Conference in Chile in December. She has inspired many young people to join the cause to demand that leaders make the necessary changes to provide a livable planet for the next generation. Their message is, “the house is on fire, it’s time to panic!”
Here in the Susquehanna Valley, it’s easy to feel insulated from the climate crisis. We’ve had some flooding, but it’s always been like that. Summers seem hotter, we get less snow in the winter than even 20 years ago, but some people think that’s a good thing. It’s not.
Warmer temperatures on land and in our oceans create conditions that result in more extreme weather events that threaten lives and livelihoods. These include heavier downpours, longer droughts, bigger hurricanes, ice-melt, sea level rise, and bigger, more deadly fires. However, even though we are not yet bearing the full brunt of the climate crisis, the way they are in coastal states, it’s coming. Ask farmers who have had to delay planting due to excessive rain and then had to battle increased agricultural pests that thrive in a warmer, moister environment. Ask businesses who have experienced a flood in recent years, 25 percent of these never recover. This summer alone, we have seen events with global impacts like the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs” of our planet. These changes threaten our way of life, our national security, our economy, the lives of every living thing on earth, and our kid’s futures. Kids see that very clearly.
On Sept. 20, youth around the world are staging a global climate strike to raise awareness of the climate crisis and we will march in solidarity with them here in Central Pennsylvania.
Our local march will start at Bucknell on the quad in front of the library at 11:30 a.m. and head downtown for a rally led by local young people. Please join us if you believe, as I do, that kids these days have got it right.
Sandy Field lives in Lewisburg and is the chair of the Climate Reality Project, Susquehanna Valley Chapter. Contact her for more information about climate action in this area or to schedule a presentation for your group at SusquehannaValleyCRP@gmail.com.