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Clara Chacko

Newark Charter School, 12th grade

If you woke up tomorrow and the sky was the color of ash, what would you think? If you woke up tomorrow and the chirping of birds ceased to exist, who would you blame? If you woke up tomorrow and could not spend longer than one hour outside because of the unbearable heat, how would you feel? In truth, these concerns are rather dystopian, but none of them are irrelevant. Current climate trends reflect a high chance that each of these scenarios could very well become a reality for our world, and it is up to the youth of today to start fighting back. 

The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) claim that the previous year, 2023, has been the warmest year on record in the past 174 years, even surpassing a record set back in 2016. The average global temperature has been recorded as fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. This is a culmination of the warmest decades ever recorded in the past century and a half. If the digits keep creeping up in this manner, it is safe to assume that in the next ten years, our Earth will have to face temperatures close to a whopping sixty degrees Fahrenheit all-around. 

But warm weather is nice, right? Not necessarily. Certain ecosystems are unable to thrive in higher temperatures, such as that of polar bears. With temperatures rising on a global scale, these organisms will not be able to survive and will eventually fade into extinction. For example, if the polar bear population goes extinct, seal populations will overpopulate due to a lack of predators and drain their ecosystem of its natural resources. So, the end of one ecosystem will lead to the end of many others, as every organism is related to many other ones. 

Apart from destroying ecosystems, global warming has the ability to affect us in a more direct way. With temperatures rising on a global scale, this means shorter winters overall, a greater amount of forest fires because of the increase in hot, dry weather, and storms that are more severe by nature. If no action is taken to put an end to the negative effects of climate change, these very real changes to our environments will eventually turn Earth into an uninhabitable planet. 

So, as teenagers living through and witnessing the current climate-based downfall of the 21st century, what can we do? For one, we can start by educating ourselves on the true extent of the damage caused by global warming. The NCEI’s official website is dedicated to storing comprehensive data about the world’s oceans, atmosphere, and geophysical aspects. You do not have to be tech-savvy to sift through this information, and it can help you understand the bleak reality of our climate’s state. Other resources include infographics, YouTube video essays, and other websites dedicated to research on our Earth’s climate can be useful too. 

Keeping these resources in mind, building up our knowledge on global warming and climate change has a plethora of benefits. One such benefit is being able to take all of the knowledge we have and develop a strong argument against anyone that claims the effects of global warming and climate change are not detrimental. If going on the offensive and debating with such perspectives seems too harsh, this information is also grounds for furthering our own knowledge on these topics. It is important to remember: the more knowledge we gain in this area, the more power we will have to be the change we want to see in the world. 

Moving on, refusing to stay silent about these issues is yet another way teenagers can help make a difference. If more people hear about the dangers of global warming and climate change, then more people will realize the gravity of the problem and do what they can to help. “Many hands make light work,” so each of us should make it our personal responsibility to let others know about the negative consequences of allowing global warming/climate change to continue without any resistance. If more people join in on fighting for this cause then actually achieving success becomes a whole lot easier. 

Even though educating ourselves and speaking up are both great ways to advocate for environmental change, an even easier place to begin would be in our very own homes. One example is recycling, which saves energy by reducing waste and decreasing pollution. If your family does not actively recycle, then you should start now, making sure to set aside paper, cardboard, thermoplastics, etc. for the recycling bin. Apart from these items, composting is great for food waste management, turning leftover food scraps into nutrient-rich soil which can help the plants in your yard grow. 

These arguably simple changes can have such an important impact on our environment. On top of this, in 2020, a nonprofit organization known as Keep America Beautiful (KAB) carried out a study to research the amount of waste produced in the form of litter across the United States. They were able to count close to 50 billion pieces of litter alongside roadways and waterways throughout the country. Just by doing our part and throwing our waste into a trash can/recycling bin instead of on the side of the street can lead to significant improvement in our ability to conserve valuable raw materials and fight against global warming and climate change. 

Overall, the effects of global warming/climate change are beyond detrimental to the advancement of our planet and species. The ways in which we can fight back include educating ourselves on the extent of these issues, speaking up and educating others on everything we have learned, and making small yet substantially helpful changes in our lifestyles to reduce waste and pollution in our environment. If, as youth, we can become more active in making a stand against climate change, there is a complete possibility of our generation not only fixing the problem but also starting to reverse its effects, helping our planet survive. 

 

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