This Land Is Our Land

September 20th marked the first day of Global Climate Strike week. Over 4 million people from 163 countries participated in a climate strike, walking out of their schools and workplaces to advocate for climate justice. Among them was a large group of NHHS students facing risk of missed tests and unexcused absences. The movement, founded by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, aimed to grab the attention of those with the power to make a difference. On Monday, the United Nations Climate Action Summit took place in New York City, and now we’ll see if our protests had any real impact.

But for now, let’s answer the question many have asked: what’s the point? Does this strike really change anything?

I prefer the simple answer yes. I believe any action, no matter how small, can have an impact. Thunberg, for example, began striking outside of the Swedish Parliament all by herself just a year ago, and now she is at the forefront of the movement. One person, one act of resistance, can make all the difference.

But my words may be misleading; it would be completely unfair of me to reduce such a complex solution to something as seemingly mundane as a protest.

The climate strike is an incredibly empowering and unifying way for youth to express just how important this issue is to us. But it is just the start to something bigger and should only be treated as such. If we do not take further action, nothing will change.

We have a history when talking about the climate crisis of constantly placing the blame on ourselves. It is our responsibility to take shorter showers, to eat less meat, to use less straws. I stand by my claim that a little goes a long way. But I must emphasize a statistic I’m sure you’ve heard before: merely 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global emissions.

With talk of personal responsibility to live more sustainable lives comes the issue of greenwashing and consumerism. By preaching to the public that it is our duty to change our everyday lives, we only feed into the same capitalistic ploys that birthed the problem we are trying to destroy. All it has done is create a new market, one that wears a disguise of sustainability, when in reality, it causes just as much harm as any other corporation does. When we choose “sustainable” options or participate in the strike, we subconsciously convince ourselves that our actions alone are slowing climate change. But these small actions can only be effective if they are supplemental to more significant climate justice.

So, are we completely screwed? Again, I’ll take the simple answer: no. There is a larger solution to global warming. And you can be a part of it, by making small scale changes in your everyday life, but also by pushing for more significant solutions. I ask that you keep in mind the following advice.

First, put more thought into how and what you consume. We have been taught the three R’s since elementary: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The first two are most important, for only 9% of recycling actually is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and our oceans. So, try to reduce your overall consumption. Boycott companies that are major contributors to climate change (Nestle, Exxon, BP, to name a few). Purchase only what is necessary, and consider more sustainable alternatives to what you do need. Try sourcing your clothing and books secondhand. And if you are trying to replace your plastic usage with reusables? Take advantage of what you already own. I carry around a reusable straw, utensil set, and tote bag, all of which I simply took from my kitchen. Purchasing excessive amounts of metal straws and on-the-go utensils just for the aesthetic completely misses the point of waste reduction. If you can, also consider reducing your meat consumption. Animal agriculture is a leading contributor to climate change, and by designating at least one day a week as “meatless,” you can significantly reduce your emissions.

Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, speak out! Use your voice. If you are at least sixteen, pre-register to vote. Vote for leaders who promise actual solutions to climate change. Educate yourself on these solutions, like the Green New Deal. If you’re ineligible for the upcoming election, you can still spread the word. Walk out of school if you have to. There is no time to waste.

There is still hope–but only if we take action.