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Sidrisha Sarbajna

Sidrisha Sarbajna | RENEW 2023 Essay Contest | Topic: Youth Climate Action

Just in my eighteen years, I have seen significant changes to our climate at home in Delaware, witnessing Christmases go from white to green and our backyard evergreens wilting in the hot August sun. As the topic of climate change rose to greater political significance and seeing it taking place around me, I took interest in exploring it. What exactly is climate change?

Why does it matter? How can we do something about it? To answer my questions, I watched YouTube videos, took an environmental science class, got involved in my school’s environmental club, and both attended and helped organize the Delaware Youth Environmental Summit. In involving myself in all these ways, I have gathered some knowledge of our current climate efforts in Delaware, and wish to add my two cents to how we as youth can do more.

Shall we start with what climate change is? It is the long-term change in temperature and weather patterns. Why does it matter? Well, we are experiencing climate change at an unnaturally rapid rate due to anthropogenic causes, which makes the planet increasingly unsafe for us as this negatively affects essential human needs such as clean air, safe drinking water, adequate food supply, and proper shelter. Now, how can we do something about it? There’s a broad range of answers to this question. As large and intimidating as the issue seems to be, there are several things we as youth can do just in our local communities to make an impact.

First, we can establish student-led environmental clubs in schools where there are none, and ensure that we keep people engaged in such clubs. By establishing environmental clubs, we raise awareness of youth to environmental issues, like climate change and influence students to take action, even more so when it is the students that are leading the charge. In order to accomplish these goals, we need to make sure the club thrives. I’ve seen first-hand the deterioration of our environmental club at school because our leaders simply were not able to keep the club engaging enough for students to stay, so clubs must capture their members’ attention, interest, and motivation to be effective.

One great way to engage students is to establish fun activities that can relate back to environmentalism. Clubs can establish movie days such as watching TheLorax and having an after movie discussion or debate of how it shows the effect of human actions on the environment, and how that leads to climate change. This gives students not only the opportunity to see a fun movie, but get to know other members of the club and explore the deeper importance and impact of environmental issues, thus being a team building and learning experience all in one. Clubs can also make learning and awareness a game! Using easily accessible tools such as Kahoot! or slideshows to create a Jeopardy board, they can create a fun and informative environment, with friendly competition, team work, and learning all motivating students to stay interested. Offering small prizes may also be an option; people may come to win the prize, but will leave learning much more. It’s also important for the club to encourage non-members to join in as they please. The larger the outreach, the more impact we can make! Environmental clubs can also establish annual or small environmental projects to work on throughout the year, in which they can involve members and even collaborate with other environmental clubs from different schools. A friendly competition of which club can get their school to plant the most trees, figuring out how to write to our state representatives about climate change issues, creating urban and community gardens that not only the school but neighboring community may help raise and harvest, and organizing climate change protests are just a few examples clubs can take inspiration from. Projects are a great way to keep the club focused and united on a central goal, foster a collaborative environment within the club and local community, and light-hearted rivalry between clubs is always a good motivator.

Though school may be one of the best ways to gather young people in one place, it does not mean that youth cannot take action outside of school. Of course, projects and activities I’ve suggested earlier can also be just as effectively pursued outside of a school environmental club, but that is not the only change we can make. With what we learn in school and in our environmental clubs, we may be more informed than the older generations around us about climate change. As such, we must do our part to inform them about climate change and what action they can take. With our voices, we can influence the people around us to make changes that we ourselves cannot make just yet. That can mean explaining to parents that making switches to more energy efficient appliances, washing laundry on cold instead of hot water, switching out incandescent lights for fluorescent ones, and reducing heat use in the house would help conserve energy that would not only save them a bit of money, but also reduce our effect on climate change. We may open them up to exploring other options to fossil fuel energy use, like installing solar panels on the roofs of our homes, and thinking of voting for politicians with future climate plans, which can influence more legislation to address the issue. If we can influence both adults and other youth around us to start thinking more about climate, they too will influence others around them to do the same, creating a positive chain-reaction that will help us make a larger impact overall.

The more youth we can expose the great extent of the climate change issue to, the more we as a generation can do later on in our own careers in the future to mitigate climate change, perhaps in ways that might not, at first, meet the eye. I am not talking about just working in climate activism groups, but in traditional jobs that may not be as directly related to climate change, but definitely have a role in influencing the issue. As employees (and consumers), we can make an active choice to steer away from companies that are not making efforts in reducing their climate impact. As scientists, we can research how climate change is occurring, how it is affecting us, and project what we may face in the future. As engineers, we can create more energy efficient technologies and improve our prospects for green energy. As politicians, we can advocate and pass legislation to support use of technologies to slow climate change, and put handicaps on actions that do the opposite. And as teachers, we can inform the next generation about climate change, which is crucial as this problem will not stop with us, and may likely continue affecting humans far into the future. There are possibly a plethora of other careers that also have influence on the climate change issue, but I can only list so many. The more youth we can inform and capture the interest of in terms of the climate change issue, the more change can happen further down the road.

All in all, I believe that the work we do now as young people to inform ourselves and the people around us about climate change can create a ripple effect that may start as one small action, but will lead to greater impact that will ultimately shape the future of us, and the future of Delaware.

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