“The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” ~ Greta Thunberg, environmental youth activist, 2018
(A version of this article first appeared in the Kingston Neighbours magazine, April, 2022.)
It’s impossible to talk about Earth Day, which is April 22 this year, without talking about the climate crisis. And it’s impossible to talk about the climate crisis without acknowledging the anxiety many people, especially our youth, feel about our planet’s future. The theme of this year’s Earth Day is Invest In Our Planet.
What does that mean? How can we acknowledge our kids’ fears and inspire hope for change?
To help tackle these questions, I turned to the book, How To Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide To Protecting the Planet and Each Other, by award-winning Canadian journalist and social activist, Naomi Klein. It offers both a scientific examination of climate change and a blueprint to fight it.
The first part of Klein’s book outlines how rising levels of carbon cioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels are increasing Earth’s average surface temperature and how that increase is subsequently causing more extreme weather than ever before.
Klein explains why countries need to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and bring global emissions to zero by 2050. Using Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as an example, she also demonstrates how poor and racialized people suffer “first and worst” during climate change disasters.
In the second part, Klein explores the history of climate change and gives evidence that big oil companies knew about the impact of burning fossil fuels as early as 1977 but did little about it.
In the last part of her book, Klein shares some ideas experts are exploring to stop global warming, like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and geo-engineering projects. However, Klein points out the best way to slow climate disruption is to eliminate fossil fuels; this plan will also require reforming the economic models that perpetuate greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation and inequity. She outlines actions that everyday citizens, especially youth, can take to lead the world to a greener place:
- Participate in tree-planting projects globally.
- Demand more climate change education in schools.
- Reject consumerism, a way of life centred on shopping.
- Start a local movement for positive environmental change, like installing solar panels on a community centre.
- Join marches, protests and demonstrations fighting for action on climate change and injustice.
- Boycott companies and banks that support fossil-fuel projects through social media and letter writing campaigns.
- Campaign and vote for ‘Green New Deal’ politicians, who advocate for actions like:
- stopping new pipelines, off-shore oil rigs and fracking
- increasing renewable energy sources like solar and wind power
- expanding public transit like high-speed trains to reduce driving and flying
- designing sustainable urban communities
- Get involved in politics.. Youth can start at the school, college or university level.
- Make green art — pictures, songs, stories — to give hope to the climate movement.
Our kids are rightfully worried about their future, but by encouraging them to take action on climate change, we can help them feel less afraid. More importantly, by investing in our planet now, our youth will bring about a brighter, most sustainable and equitable future for everyone.