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Ritisha Sarbajna

Newark Charter School, 11th

Winter “Wonder” Land

It was barely November. Through the gap between my curtains, a soft glow seeped through, as I awoke from the sudden burst of excitement that entered my room. Blinking sleepily, I turned to see my sister grinning ear-to-ear, with her face illuminated by the soft glow emitted by the filtered windows. I remember the anticipation that built as we shoved the curtains aside and were met with the beaming white paradise as our noses pressed against the frosty glass, and our breaths formed little clouds of condensation. A whole year had passed since we witnessed the first snow. Without a moment’s hesitation, we bundled up and stepped outside into the tapestry of white, a clean slate for our imagination to grow. I was mesmerized by the dancing snowflakes as they shimmered in the sky, grateful for the cold that kissed our cheeks, and simply happy to be encapsulated by the chilling air that numbed us as we spent our time in the snow. We indulged in the pleasures of winter, competing to see who made the better snowman, having snowball fights, making snow angels, and lying on the ground to let the snow consume us while the sky blinded our eyes with its brilliance. For hours on end, I would lose myself in the magic that fueled the winter landscape. However, I didn’t realize that those hours would get shorter, and the wait for this day would become longer.

Years passed, and I grew older. I started to notice the subtle changes in my favorite time of the year. The thick blankets of white that coated the earth were shrinking, and I became grateful if the snow that used to linger on for weeks, lasted for even a few days. With each passing year, I watched with a growing sense of unease. The memories of the heavy snow that I experienced in the early November’s of my childhood lingered, while I was stung with the reality that I wouldn’t experience it again. The snow slowly disappeared, leaving us with un-white Christmases, and a few flakes falling in January. Winters were replaced by unpredictable weather patterns and milder temperatures. What we once referred to as a winter wonderland was now more of a fleeting world that one would be lucky to catch sight of.

With the feeling that my favorite aspect of nature was rapidly slipping away, I didn’t hesitate to ask “why?” Why was what seemed like a regular phenomenon, changing and disappearing before my eyes? Why were people just accepting it, as if it were a natural fluctuation in the weather that would pass? Why was I being told that “nature is always changing” and that this is just the way it is. Why couldn’t I accept it?

It didn’t take long for me to start researching on my own. I realized that this was only one piece of a much larger, complex puzzle. Climate change is what my searches led me to. Human impact of the environment is what I found to be the driving force of the rapidly vanishing winters. Driven by their contribution to climate change, the world is experiencing a series of problems that circulate and impact one another, resulting in an ongoing cycle of destruction. The burning of fossil fuels for energy, industrial processes that release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, deforestation, and even trivial matters like how we dispose of trash all lead to global warming. The rise in temperatures causes weather, precipitation, and atmospheric patterns to change, ultimately resulting in milder winters with reduced snowfall, along with snow and ice melting faster. 

I reflected on the fading winters and their implications going forward. I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss, given that my childhood was shaped by the abundant snow in my backyard. With a newfound appreciation for nature, I remained hopeful. I was encouraged to find ways to instill hope and desire for change in others. 

I am now aware. Aware that there are others like me who long for the winters that we’ve previously experienced. Aware that we can make a difference by rallying together, advocating, and acting to preserve our environment. This is more than just a longing for snow. Climate change impacts the whole environment, including us. Although many of us have heard about the little things we can do to reduce the impact, there is so much more we are capable of. As young individuals, we have the ability to utilize our voice to make considerable changes. We have been recognized internationally, for our demands, ideas, and desire for change. We have a say in what the future holds, and can work to make ourselves heard by higher authority. As youth, we can start anywhere, from working within our schools and small communities, to collaborating with others and expanding our voice. Volunteering to pick up trash in public areas, establishing recycling policies, promoting renewable energy, and so much more can have a profound impact on establishing a friendlier environment for all.

Now, as I watch the glimmering snowflakes drift in the sky, I reminisce about the joyous winters of the past. I can make a difference – not just for myself, but for future generations who deserve to experience the magical winters that I once had.

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