Hope for December

Earlier this month I attended a sustainability conference at the University of South Florida to speak about green technology. I'm a strong proponent of green tech for anyone who can afford it, having spent the last 40 years working toward achieving a smaller and smaller eco-impact for myself. (I've lived a slower and less expensive life going off the grid, and I'm happier because of it.) While I was there, a class of first-graders from a neighboring school gave me a book they'd made called "Earth, Earth, What Do I See?" On each page, they'd written and illustrated ways to go green. It was powerful for obvious reasons: here were twenty-some children who wanted to affect the world in a positive way. But it was also incredibly inspiring, because it was symbolic of the kind of shift that's happening right now in the environmental arena, a clear illustration that "going green" is not just a trend or something for the elite, that it's a reality that people are increasingly embracing.

The generation that is coming of age right now is gaining insight about environmental issues that was foreign to generations before them. They're taking action to make a change because they are growing up with an understanding of the magnitude of their decisions. In their book, these kids weren't presenting state-of-the-art innovation or suggesting radical life change; they were proposing small-scale, individual actions--the kind of minor adjustments that we can all make in our everyday lives. And that's the exact kind of mindset we need to change course on climate change--one that views "going green" as a natural course of action. It's moments like this that give me hope that the world is making a shift.

In December, the Copenhagen conference has the potential to do what the Kyoto Protocol couldn't--because of an increasing urgency to solve the problems at hand, but also because of this changing awareness about what climate change means, and how it will affect our world--on an environmental level and on a humanitarian level. We have reason to celebrate already, because leaders from countries all over the world are uniting on an international scale. But time is of the essence. Some of the sharpest minds in the world will head to COP15, and we must come together as global citizens and tell them that we're doing our part; now it's their turn. If a class of first graders in South Florida can make a difference, just imagine what world leaders can accomplish.


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