Confronting Climate Change Requires Urgent Action


Ashley Xu

On the Road

Since 1970, April 22nd has been celebrated as Earth Day in cities around the globe by more than a billion people. In light of the climate-activist led protests of the 1960s, the event was originally created as a way to force environmental protection onto the national agenda, eventually becoming a day used “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide,” according to Earth Day’s official mission statement.

However, more than 50 years since that 1st celebration, I can’t help but feel that the urgent fight for environmental action has not changed in the slightest (though the temperature of the climate has).

As of 2021, close to 11 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans annually, 9 in 10 people breathe polluted air, and close to 11 million plant and animal species face extinction, according to Greener Ideal. More alarming of these statistics, however, is that the threshold for dangerous global warming will likely be crossed between 2027 and 2042, new research predicts. We are rapidly nearing the point at which climate change will be utterly irreversible, threatening the very existence of our planet’s ecosystems and, ultimately, the human race.

Inarguably, these statistics are terrifying; these problems that our society faces also feel so monstrously large that it’s futile to delay the inevitable.

Advocates for environmentalism have been preaching the validity of this threat for over half a decade, yet the horrifying reality of our environmental predicament is everpresent. If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, now is the crucial time to act.

Climate Reality Club co-founder junior Quinn Heydenfeldt said, “There is definitely an urgency to action on environmentalism, and it is necessary for change to start taking place now before it’s too late. We need to start taking action to help save our planet, and that can really start with younger people. Just us students have the power to do something everyday to prevent climate change.”

While action does need to be taken at the governmental level, something that has seemingly been avoided by politicians for years due to the eminent cost of sustainability, individuals also have immense power to enact change in their daily lives. Doing simple things such as avoiding single-use plastics, reducing your meat consumption, or reusing and recycling when possible can have an exponential impact.

“Composting food instead of throwing it in the garbage…has made a huge impact on my household, as we barely have any trash in our garbage cans anymore and most of our scraps are composted. Additionally, avoiding 1-time plastics is crucial. It’s better to use items such as reusable water bottles, reusable bags, and paper straws,” said Heydenfeldt.

While by no means do I believe that I personally model every single sustainable practice imaginable, each of us as individuals have a responsibility to make conscious choices. Nearly 3 years ago, I made the decision to quit eating meat due to the enormous climate impact of the meat industry, which reportedly produces more greenhouse gases than transportation. By eating lower on the food chain, individuals can significantly reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.

Heydenfeldt added, “Although it may be hard to completely cut out red meat, maybe limiting your consumption of red meat to 1 time over 2 weeks or 1 time a week is better than nothing.” In addition, she noted that limiting use of gasoline-fueled cars and opting for reusable masks are good ways to increase personal sustainability.

Fundamentally, environmentalism is about preserving the environment for future generations. I want my children and grandchildren someday to live in a world with glaciers, distinct seasons, and abundant plant and animal life. I hope that the earth they inhabit will be one where the very fate of human existence is not hanging in the balance.

Unfortunately, if we continue at this rate, that is not the future those generations will come to see, as scientists are highly confident that global temperatures will continue to rise in the following decades largely due to human activities.

With that said, it is abundantly important to take initiative as an individual to make change, however small the impact may seem to be. Heydenfeldt said, “Individuals have so much power. Everyday, we can act to help the planet now, and the planet for future generations. However, it is necessary to prevent change now, before the damage is irreversible.”