Community Forum: Action for the next generation

Whenever I’m on the road, I always try to look out the window. In all the years I’ve been alive, I’ve found that there’s always something beautiful or interesting to see, so long as I just look out.

On Mount Desert Island, it’s usually big, rolling mountains, or evergreen forests that stretch for miles, or the vast expanse of the ocean, blue and green and sparkling in the sunlight. Looking out the window on MDI, you’d think that our home is as beautiful as it always has been and will be forever.

But that’s not the case. Walking along the seashore, it’s not uncommon to see plastic fishing lines washed up next to the seaweed. Every summer gets hotter and more unbearable as greenhouse gases fill our atmosphere, and stronger wildfires destroy acres and acres of Maine land. Changing precipitation patterns will cause increased humidity, stronger coastal storms, and sea level rise, potentially making coastal towns uninhabitable in the years to come.

Of course, the worst effects of climate change will hit the earth many years from now, and most of us will not be around to face it. We will never have to face the destruction of major coastal cities like New York City; nor will we have to see the extinction of countless species. We will not be around to face the consequences of our actions, but our descendants will.

And that’s precisely why we should care, because it is our responsibility as citizens of today to make sure future generations of the world have a chance of living. As Gaylord Nelson, creator of Earth Day, once said, “the ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

It is unfair to our children and grandchildren to make them live with the problems their parents and grandparents caused, through no fault of their own.

So what can we do? Though it may seem insignificant, the best way to preserve the environment is to reduce usage of harmful products, such as plastics or nonrenewable resources, and finding replacements that are reusable or renewable. It’s much easier to cut down on the use of plastic bottles than getting microplastics out of the ocean or greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Starting small, by going to the grocery with reusable shopping bags or using refillable water bottles, for example, is more effective than one might think.

There are also local environmental projects that need support. Every town on the island is working on getting plastic bags off MDI with plastic bag ordinances, led by four high school freshman girls.

A Climate To Thrive (ACTT), a grassroots organization working to achieve energy independence on MDI by the year 2030, has created multiple projects as well. These include Solarize MDI, which aims to double the amount of solar power generated on the island every year, and Sustainable MDI, a restaurant sustainability pledge that focuses on reducing plastic waste from businesses all across the island. Showing support for these projects is crucial to make long-term change, change that will help us, but our descendants more.

Today, it’s easy to feel hopeless about the world. Every day, we hear news about President Trump’s latest schemes to cut down on environmental protections. We watch videos of turtles with straws stuck in their noses and seals with plastic caught around their necks. Sometimes I look out the window and wonder if I will be able to see the ocean so blue in the years to come, and if any children that I have will be able live on Earth at all.

But we must remember: There is still hope. If we act now, we will be able to greatly reduce our impact on the earth. Already, communities all across America are coming together to end the destruction, with plastic bag and straw bans and climate marches. Several states have joined the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states that is committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement.

We as a nation have the power to make change, and it all starts with the individual. Cutting down on the use of plastic, attending climate-related events, spreading awareness and stopping ignorance: These are the things that can change the world, little by little, for both today and tomorrow.

Because I want my children to be able to look out the window and admire the view one day, too.

Irene Choi is a senior at Mount Desert Island High School and a summer intern at A Climate to Thrive.

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