The global climate strike on Friday showed there are millions of young people across the planet who are determined to fix the current climate crisis the world is in.
Unfortunately, one day of ecological activism is not going to be enough to save us.
It is everyone’s duty to push the institutions they interact with to be more environmentally friendly — from the university to our hometowns and even our future employers. Making small-scale personal changes is great, but large-scale changes are the only real solution.
According to The Guardian, climate scientists released a report this week which says emissions rates must be slashed at least threefold from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement — and that’s just to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
We all need to do more than simply cut out plastic straws. Most of the time, a single person is not going to be able to make the kinds of changes the world needs right now.
Of course, some individuals can make a difference. One such person is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist who was the driving force behind last week’s strike.
However, becoming that single person requires an incredible amount of drive, perseverance and luck. Most people cannot afford to spend that much time and effort on a cause, no matter how important.
On top of that, it usually does not matter how dedicated or passionate one is when trying to change organizations like a government. One person can be ignored, but a group is much harder to brush off. A group amplifies all of our voices and shows those in power that our causes demand their attention, , even if they’d rather just pretend everything is fine.
Let’s be clear: Every one of us should do our best to make changes and reduce our own carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2017, approximately 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation and 28 percent came from electricity generation. We can limit excess electricity use, ride bikes and carpool to reduce emissions.
However, trying to get our communities and workplaces to switch over to more environmentally friendly options — like hybrid or electric commercial vehicles or changing the electric supply from coal to a renewable resource like wind or solar power — is going to have a much larger impact on overall emissions.
More than anything, it’s a matter of scale. If one person begins to live their life only making the most environmentally friendly choices — eating local, traveling by car as little as possible, zealously looking to conserve energy — that most likely wouldn’t have as much of an impact as an institution of SIUE’s size switching over to renewable energy sources. SIUE is among 41 colleges and universities who have reported using 100 percent renewable energy.
So, get involved. Don’t let these issues go away just because the strike went well. Stay informed on events and issues in your area, and make sure to vet politicians on these issues at the local and state level, not just in national elections.