This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
BY: Ashley Ganesh, a 17-year-old from Baldwin, NY in Long Island.
Ten years ago, I was in second grade learning about how to be sustainable to protect our planet with the three R’s: reuse, reduce, and recycle. Today, I am a senior in high school and I can see our Earth deteriorating day by day—from rising sea levels to the burning Amazon to more animals driven to endangerment.
Climate change is a real thing. It is not a phenomenon that will happen one hundred years in the future; it is happening right now. As I am not able to vote, the most frustrating thing to hear is adults denying climate change and claiming that it is merely a hoax preached by the left to further their political agendas. Although climate change has been happening for centuries, which is best demonstrated by the period of global warming following the last ice age, humans have disrupted this natural cycle and are accelerating these changes. According to NASA, if humans stopped using greenhouse gases today, global warming would persist for several decades, if not centuries. Through the emission of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, humans have set major climate changes in motion, even if we presently cannot feel it. Our activity will burden not only generation Z, but the generations to follow. While there were some recent actions taken to address climate change, particularly banning some single-use plastics to reduce oceanic pollution, there has not been nearly enough emphasis placed on saving our planet in governmental policy.
Gen Z and Millennials have been particularly been vocal about implementing policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels and opt for more green sources of energy; however, these policies have not been well reflected in our current presidential administration.
Given that the United States produces more than thirty percent of the planet’s total waste while it only comprises four percent of the world’s population, our nation must prioritize sustainable policy in the upcoming election. Along with many other members of Gen Z, it is very frustrating that I cannot vote in the upcoming election since the environmental policies of each candidate are vastly different. However, I am inspired by those who can vote and who are using their voices, especially on social media, to inform others of the responsibility we have as a generation. Youth political action in Gen Z can truly change the course of how our nation views climate change and environmental justice. We have a tool that connects us and empowers us more than any other prior generation: social media. Seeing young environmental activists, such as Greta Thunberg, on my Instagram feed is truly inspiring for myself and others, and it directs the much-needed attention to the biggest challenge our world will have to face in the future. Social media has given many young people to learn about the effects of climate change and to repost them to share and raise awareness. As I am not able to vote, I primarily use my voice on social media platforms to repost these infographics and follow organizations that are actively working to better our environment. For young people who cannot vote like me, I highly suggest doing the same as well as constantly informing themselves about current events and little things they can do to be more sustainable.
As more members of our generation become of voting age, we must stay educated about climate change so that we can make an informed vote on policies that will protect our planet rather than cause further harm.
I hope that older generations who can vote recognize the bearing that this election has on the climate crisis. We must implement clean energy policies and strive for the reduced use of single-use materials, and we must enact these changes now. While climate change will inevitably continue, our actions now will determine the rate at which that occurs, how polluted our planet is, and which animals still exist in the future. The facts are right in front of us, leaving our future in our hands. If we all unite against this common enemy, I genuinely believe that we can save our home. No matter how old we are, we can and should take action to make a difference.
Ashley Ganesh is a 17-year-old from Baldwin, NY in Long Island. She is a member of WNET’s Youth Collective Advisory Board.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.