Climate Corner: An intergenerational partnership
Jan 28, 2023
When America was attacked on 9/11, more than 20 years ago and before anyone now in high school was born, there was a prevalent idea that if there were the smallest chance of another attack, it was our duty to spend whatever it took to prevent it. Because the consequences of weapons of mass destruction are so dire, then Vice President Cheney said, “If there’s a one percent chance, you have to pursue it as if it were true.”
For young people alive today, climate change is their looming weapon of mass destruction, their Doomsday clock. Glaciers disappearing, water sources for entire countries drying up, coastal cities and island nations under water, critical species like bees diminishing — new signs that our planet is dangerously out of balance appear every year.
Evidence from all branches of science verifies the certainty that today’s young people will suffer a harsh and diminished environment because of what humans have done to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. (Many scientists see our time as the sixth great mass extinction and the only one caused by human activity.) VP Cheney and others hit the panic button about terrorism at only 1% certainty! The “one percent doctrine” can be just as appropriately applied to the climate crisis: If you wait for certainty, it is far too late to do anything about it. The urgency to act decisively increases every day.
Platitudes about how our children are the most precious things in our world and our promises to build them a bright future ring hollow when we observe the continued increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases and the inability of countries to keep even the modest promises made in annual climate summits. It is all too clear that the rising generation will need to come up with the solutions to preserving a habitable planet themselves.
With that necessity in mind, MOV Climate Action has created a new program in partnership with young people called Climate Ambassadors. Over the past year, we provided resources to students attending two area high schools to develop their ideas for projects that address aspects of the climate crisis.
Nathaniel McPeak, a PHS junior, explains. “I wanted to be a Climate Ambassador because I want to help save the world that I am a part of. I enjoy observing nature, going on hikes, and breathing clean air. The idea that at any given moment we are losing a percentage of what we have on this earth is terrifying, and I will do anything to stop it. I want to have a career in conservation and thought being a Climate Ambassador would be a good opportunity to start working towards that.” Nate’s project is installing bat boxes to provide habitat for that critical species.
According to Williamstown junior Alayna Garst: “I wanted to be a Climate Ambassador because I care about nature and want to do my part in the fight against climate change. Being a Climate Ambassador is a way to take an active role in that fight. I like to hike, swim, bike, camp, and take walks in nature. I believe everyone has the right to enjoy those things. While I will most likely pursue a career in art instead of environmental science, art can be useful for spreading information and knowing is half the battle. When I became aware of the melting Artic, dying coral reefs, and burning forests, it inspired me to get involved. Being a Climate Ambassador has given me a voice to speak on issues that are important to me and my community.” Alayna’s project has been to start an environmental club at her school.
We intend the Climate Ambassadors to be the kind of intergenerational collaboration that will be essential to create solutions to the climate crisis. People learn how to make a difference and solve tough problems by picking a place to start, and learning by doing. My generation, which made the problem so much worse during our lifetimes, can and must share resources, connections and skills with rising generations so they can more quickly and effectively solve the problems of maintaining a livable planet. Our goal is to spread the program to students attending at least four area high schools this year. We’ll start recruiting new ambassadors next month.
For more information on how to join the next class of Climate Ambassadors, or how you can support this program, leave a message on the MOVCA Facebook page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean Ambrose, of Walker, is trying not to be a criminal ancestor.