Our world is incredible, shrouded in a veil of mystery and wonder. From pristine hot springs in Iceland to towering, glacial crevices in Russia, the earth keeps us spellbound in its grandeur. Its inhabitants are awe-inspiring, works of art. Animals lack guile, yet hold a profound understanding of the world. They are much more intelligent than we give them credit for, and, overall, manage to survive the onslaught of natural and man-made obstacles thrown their way.
Unfortunately, the more I learn about the environment, the more concerned I am for its future.
Because of human carelessness, the earth we love is in peril. Climate change has disrupted the earth's balance, and its effects are widespread. Birds like the puffin find themselves in warmer waters, unable to feed the right sized fish to their chicks. Animals like the polar bear find their habitat melting and shrinking. Communities face longer and more forceful droughts, superstorms and flooding. Polluted oceans kill protective coral reefs and destroy biodiversity. The problems are there, so why isn't action being taken?
When people hear the environment is out of whack, they tend to shrug it off, try to disprove it, or resist the changes required to improve it. During the past 5 years, I've visited Washington DC several times to speak to members of Congress about alternative energy and bird conservation. I argued that the earth's habitat is in peril and oil spills don't help. While some representatives agreed and wanted change, others dismissed me because I'm not an adult. Some were just rude and attacked my argument with fallacies and exaggerations. Despite the push for a "better" planet, the apathy of the general public plunges us all deeper in the hole we've dug ourselves. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate, vast amounts of vital land are milled over for short-term benefit, and political leaders are more concerned about beating the opposition than improving the country.
However, there is a way out of this ditch. Our generation must speak out and inspire others. United, we can move mountains, hearts and minds.
Although the environment's problems seem overwhelming, the younger generation can set the example for the adults. Everything you do makes a difference. A simple 'share' on Facebook can intrigue those who follow you, making them aware of something unbeknownst to them. You can bring reusable bags to the store. Sure, some people may think you are weird, but it gives you a chance to explain that plastic bags are made with petroleum and are often mistakenly eaten by wildlife. Others who probably haven't considered this problem might start using reusable bags themselves. Earth-friendly habits are like wearing a seatbelt. At one time people didn't use them, but eventually, they became the 'new normal.' Now everyone automatically wears them. It's up to us to set a new normal in terms of the environment. It is up to us to use this power wisely to better the future for all inhabitants on Earth.
Alternative energy is another area where our generation must lead. There are many issues with dirty fossil fuels, from the environmental dangers in extracting them to the greenhouse gasses they generate. We can't settle for the status quo. Our country was built on innovative ideas -- why not investigate other possible energy sources even beyond solar and wind? Algae that serves as fuel? Maybe. A bus that runs on poo? Gross, but a reality. Unfortunately our country continues to invest in old energy sources that ruin natural habitats, sometimes forever. How is that a cost-effective investment? Our generation has to take an active role in environmental science, energy engineering and, of course, political leadership. We can't look at our own children and say, "Sorry kids, we're still burning oil, coal and gas. We couldn't think of anything better."
Before I get barraged with the 'oil provides jobs' and 'the environment doesn't matter' arguments, let me say this: No pipelines or hydrofracking will be the magic bullet to save the economy and our energy needs. Yes, renewable energy has flaws. However, it doesn't destroy the environment the way chemical leaks and oil spills do. Alternative energy solutions like solar panels provide jobs to engineers and contractors and reduce our carbon footprint. Instead of investing in polluting energy sources, people should invest in what helps the world, long-term. Are man-made disasters like the 2010 oil spill fully behind us? Nobody mentions the long-lasting repercussions to the Gulf of Mexico as the spill slips into the recesses of old media coverage. In truth, the Gulf still suffers the effects of the spill and daily news reports demonstrate the impact climate change has on our daily lives. Weather charts and patterns around the world are becoming more unstable and erratic, and some still have the nerve to say, "Look at all this snow! Global warming is a fraud!"
Climate change is not a religion. You cannot just say you don't believe in it. An imperfect solution is better than wasting time and resources investing in an old idea. This crisis will continue unless we, the next generation, choose to change.
This blog post is part of the 'It's Our Earth (Day)' blog series, curated by the editors of HuffPost Generation Change in recognition of Earth Day 2015. We've invited young environmental bloggers to share how climate issues are affecting their lives and futures, and why it's so important for youth to take climate action. To see all the other posts in the series, click here.