The children are our future—and so is climate change. Scientists conclude that by 2030, the Earth will reach a point of no return. By that year, Earth’s environment will be permanently destroyed and will only continue to collapse until reaching its inevitable end.
That’s why organizations like Our Climate aim to educate and empower the world’s youth to take action on the global warming crisis. Over the course of four days in late July, Our Climate’s Youth Climate Camp met in locations throughout New York City, such as Governors Island, Williamsburg and midtown Manhattan, to discuss climate change.
According to the organization’s website, “Our Climate mobilizes and empowers young people to educate the public and elected officials about science-based, equitable climate policy solutions that build a livable world.”
The camp is “helping me develop the skills that are needed to get the attention of politicians who think that climate change is not a pressing issue,” says Kayla Kadlubowski, 16, who attended the camp.
About 20 teenagers came together to learn about the history, politics, art and writing surrounding climate change. They discussed the seriousness of the issue and acknowledged that many people do not believe that climate change is real.
“Climate change has been discredited in our society today, seen as a fake phenomenon that has ‘no scientific evidence’ to be backed up on. As an adolescent, it is very important to me that people start to realize how pressing and real [it is],” Olivia Daoud, a participant in the program, says.
Eloise Dreesen, a 16-year-old living in Greenwich Village, described her experience in the program. She explained that the group learned how to take action and change policies in hopes of creating a safe environment for future generations. They met with Sunrise, an organization the New York Times has called a “political power player,” that provides jobs for young people to spread awareness about, and protest against, climate change.
The attentive and driven teenagers practiced writing letters to government officials, and even learned how to use bird dogging as an effective tool for seeking answers from politicians. The technique involves asking specific, well-planned and unavoidable questions, usually during live interviews, in hopes of getting honest remarks from significant figures.
Kadlubowski describes how she “realized how pressing this issue is” when a speaker explained that carbon taxing and cap-and-trade can effectively lower the amount of emissions produced in the U.S. “To me, it was such a logical way to incentivize green energy use, but it was only a part of the plan. There’s hope for the planet, but it’s mind-boggling that these big fossil fuel companies are so blinded by greed. They are willing to do anything to keep their customers, even if it means killing their planet,” she says.
The camp educated the participants on the importance of being an active supporter rather than a passive one, meaning that in order to create real change, the population must make phone calls to Congress and take other actions to combat climate change.
“After attending a youth climate camp and learning more about how serious of an issue climate change really is, I try and encourage all of my friends and family members to live [cleaner] lives…by purchasing a reusable bag for groceries, trading in a plastic straw for a metal one, and investing in sustainably made clothing, coffee and solar energy,” Daoud says.
On Sunday, July 28, Our Climate’s youth climate camp met on Governors Island. Located just off the southern tip of Manhattan in New York Harbor, the island is extremely eco-friendly and home to the world’s first climate museum.
According to the website, the Climate Museum on the island welcomes individuals “from all walks of life” to learn about climate change, reflect on what has been lost, and unite to actively engage in solutions to major problems.
Our Climate’s camp toured the museum and met with resident artists who fight climate change through art.
The program taught participants that everyone must take action to confront what may be the most dire challenge the world has ever faced.
When the camp ended, Dreesen asked herself, “Can I have kids?” She fears raising a child in a world that may witness so much more damage.
“You need to dedicate your time to this. That’s how bad it is,” she says. She acknowledges that many organizations, politicians and individuals have the answers and resources to attempt to minimize environmental destruction. “We know exactly what we have to do,” Dreesen says.
The question is whether we, as a planet, will stop using fossil fuels, minimize carbon production, use renewable energy sources, and make personal sacrifices in time to save the planet.
“More people, no matter the age, need to be aware of what is happening to our planet and how everyone can adjust their lives to help heal our planet and elongate the lifespan of life on Earth,” Kadlubowski says.