By Isabella Michael
Climate change is an issue that has been overlooked for years. It’s the well-known term that looms above our heads but never seems to demand attention. It has been brought up to the American people and to people globally for decades, but pushed under the rug and denied by many. Administrations from both parties have failed to treat climate change with the intensity it requires.
There was the lack of follow-through and upholding of goals in the Clinton administration. The Bush administration rejected and did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, placing unfair expectations on developing countries to take responsibility for our climate. These administrations, as well as the Obama administration and the Trump administration, have stuck us in a seemingly endless loop of proposing low-intensity climate action and not attaining those proposed climate goals.
Living in this beautiful community, I think we all develop an earnest appreciation for our environment. Even in the winter, we travel past views of snow-capped mountains and beautiful coves on our way to school or work. I can’t imagine not being able to hike and bike on trails through abundant forests in the summers. But as temperatures climb, snowfall is decreasing and climate conditions suitable for our forests are expected to decline. We, and more importantly the species that rely on our forests, will face the effects.
We live amongst the unique biodiversity that seems perpetual and unending, but it’s not. Maine records show that spring is arriving earlier, summers are growing hotter, and sea levels and temperatures are rising. Our ecosystem is being increasingly threatened by human behavior. And as many know, this isn’t exclusive to Maine.
We should be able to say with certainty that our home will not be destroyed when we are older. That nature we see every day will continue to be there for our entire lives. That us, our children and the other species that live among us will be able to thrive — but we can’t. And that should be concerning to our government.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to redirect blame and put off action. However, we must not only personally acknowledge our impact on the environment, but also hold harmful corporations and governments accountable.
On March 15, much of our community gathered along with thousands of allies from about 100 countries around the world to push the message that climate change must be met with action; not with denial and standby.
And on April 23, Maine communities will gather in Augusta to rally, advocate for climate action and speak with legislators about current and proposed policy.
I’ve had classmates tell me that they don’t agree with climate strikes; that missing class to strike for climate change won’t accomplish anything and it’s more important to attend school. That we first need an education to change the world.
I disagree. Because this is how real change is made — with action. Prioritizing climate action before school or work conveys the urgency of the issue. Wanting to change a problem demonstrates your character, but aligning your ideas with your actions is what makes your ambitions a reality. Demanding change and being part of the change is essential to ensuring a livable climate.
It is crucial to look beyond the barriers we are taught to believe stand before us and climate action. No matter our age, political party, government position or lack thereof, we all have the ability and responsibility of maintaining our planet. The world is deteriorating, just slower than the rate at which we are used to seeing devastating things happen.
We’re used to experiencing damaging events fast; we see them unfold in a matter of seconds. In a car crash, there is an immediate collision. In a powerful earthquake, buildings collapse suddenly. In war, weapons are used, bullets are fired and the damage becomes apparent fast.
Climate change is different. It’s been slower, but the effects will be no less damaging. It has taken us decades to take action because we couldn’t see first hand what damage our emissions would cause. The concept was more abstract. Now, in an age where we can not only see the damage that is happening but can be empowered to take action, there is no better time for us to speak out.
Isabella Childs Michael is an environmental advocate and a sophomore at Mount Desert Island High School where she is a member of the Eco Team.