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The whole world is in our hands

The Oscars were momentous this year, namely because we learned Leo needs to sleep in a bear carcass to actually win an Oscar. About time. But amid deleting all my DiCaprio memes, Leo’s acceptance speech caught my attention. Finally having won after all these years, and during an Oscars focused on racism in the entertainment industry, Leo delivered a call to action in regards to climate change. Yes, climate change.

You might be thinking: why? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. If we don’t care now, then according to NASA we are looking at a Southern California with longer droughts, more frequent wildfires, reduced agricultural yields, declining freshwater supplies, erosion of our beaches and increased insect and disease outbreaks. Ok, so maybe the answer’s not that simple.

We live in a world where we, high school students, focus on academics and family and social lives, and for those times we do pay attention to politics, it’s on terrorism, education, or the economy–rarely does climate change rear its ugly head in current events these days. When it does, it’s portrayed as a debate, despite the incomprehensibly vast amounts of scientific evidence supporting the idea that climate change is human-caused and inconducive to the long-term health of Planet Earth.

This “debate” is solely an American phenomenon: at the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, foreign leaders and global environmental activists stated that they were puzzled by American obstinacy to the idea of climate change. In other words, literally the rest of the civilized and uncivilized world is confused as to why the American head of state has to convince our legislative bodies that climate change is a legitimate issue, nevermind an urgent issue that requires immediate and decisive action. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, involving 1300 independent international scientists, unequivocally reported that anthropomorphic, or human-caused, warming of the global climate is occurring; today, the UN finds that climate change poses irreversible and dangerous effects to our planet. As American citizens and citizens of the future, we have an obligation to take action.

So what can we, a drop in the ocean of humanity, do to prevent catastrophic, runaway climate change that has the potential to ruin our planet? We can care. We can inform ourselves and try not to doze off when Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” plays in AP Biology. We can pay attention to the presidential candidates’ stance on climate change (hint: only Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the two Democratic candidates, believe that climate change is caused by humans and action is necessary, according to NPR), and vote accordingly. Most importantly, we can critically examine this issue, reject the ideas of those who deny climate change in the face of substantial and reputable evidence.

Earth has a problem, and it’s up to our generation to admit it and fix it. To ignore this issue, to consider it the problems of politicians and activists and other adults way older than us, is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. We are the ones who will be most affected by climate change. Equipped with the lens of foresight, we easily condemn those who allowed horrors such as slavery or genocide to occur. Having the foresight to prevent the horror of runaway climate change, to take responsibility to prevent a catastrophe with epically disastrous consequences decades later, is much more difficult, but infinitely more essential.

By Maxwell Zhu, Staff writer 

Photo by Casey Lee