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Small changes make a big difference, but we need visionary action to halt climate change

Thousands took to the streets of Boston last week for the Youth Action Climate Strike. Many skipped school and took the day off from work to march against government inaction with regard to climate change. (Photo Courtesy of Robin Lubbock, WBUR)

Katlyn Santo
Connector Contributor

Climate change is one of the gravest challenges facing our nation and the world today. The only problem is we are refusing to do anything to stop it.

And when I say “we,” I really mean government leaders across the geopolitical landscape.

The masses care. Hundreds of thousands of students left school two weeks ago to participate in climate marches across the country and across the globe. Vast swaths of people are protesting, because the world wants action – and that action needs to be taken now.

Those same people protesting have been taking personal action for many years. They have been buying reusable shopping bags, non-disposable water bottles and reusable straws to cut down on single-use plastics. They have been transitioning to using electrical cars or low-emissions vehicles rather than the average gas-guzzling automobile. And that is commendable.

But these small gestures, though meaningful and effective when acted on in a grand scale, can only do so much. And should we fail to act on a much wider scale, there will be major consequences. Potentially, extinction-level consequences.

That is why I sat down this week with UMass Lowell Environmental Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor Lori Weeden to discuss the issue.

My discussion with Weeden only served to strengthen my belief that we need mass visionary political growth on the issue of climate change. Weeden told me that the one way we can really help our planet is to vote and call our representatives. We need our representatives to hear us and understand that we demand action.

Weeden pointed out that we need leaders like those at UMass Lowell. Right here on campus we have a full time Office of Sustainability and a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to make the campus carbon neutral in the span of a few short years. That plan can be found on the UMass Lowell Sustainability website.

Weeden also brought to my attention that individuals and political policymakers must avoid the dangers of solutions that appear helpful but do little to solve the underlying problem.

Many Americans have upgraded to energy-efficient electric vehicles in recent years, but few know that the electricity they charge those vehicles with is generated with the burning of fossil fuels at massive energy plants. So long as we allow the energy companies to burn all that fuel, Weeden said, we may as well just continue burning it in our own cars.

But instead of using money for burning fossil fuels we should be investing our money to renewable energy. And it is once again important to realize that we need to call our politicians to make this happen. Only they can reorient American research and development money toward renewable energy research. Only they can implement massive climate change plans that will truly make waves on the world stage.

The burning of fossil fuels needs to be reduced so our planet warms more than 2 degrees Celsius. And we are on track to heat up well beyond that metric if we do not make a change soon. If our planet heats up that much, we will suffer horribly.

According to National Geographic, many are already seeing that suffering firsthand. In places where there are glaciers, and snow on the mountains many experience flooding. This is from the warming of the climate. Homes are being destroyed and people are being displaced.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg – no pun intended.

At the end of the day, it is our future and if we do not fight for it then we may as well kiss it goodbye. But remember that if you do not want to resign yourself to such a sad future, you can make a change. Register to vote and start using more reusable products and products made from recycled material. We all need to pitch in to help the environment.

It starts with us. And if we want to see world-saving change on the issue, it is going to have to start with us making the political landscape more hospitable to climate change legislation.

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