Global climate change has been an ominous phrase for decades — a looming, ambiguous deadline when our home will no longer welcome us.
As a 17 year old, I have known no reality other than this.
When I was 5, I volunteered with my family to plant milkweed and other flowering plants to establish safe habitats for endangered butterflies. This was the first time I had to reckon with the idea that there are certain creatures future generations will only see in textbooks, just as we do with dinosaurs.
The idea that humans were single-handedly harming all of these creatures — and doing very little to protect them — was foreign to my tiny brain.
Why wouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to protect them? Twelve years later, I have found no compelling reason.
However, this mindset is visibly changing as the youth of our nation are starting to find their voices.
Before my generation, young people weren’t given a platform to share their lived experiences. With the rise of digital media, however, this dated norm is being erased.
Youth activists, ranging from Greta Thunberg to local students in our community, have created a platform for themselves and paved the way for open conversations surrounding climate change.
As our nation's younger generations have risen to the plate, we have seen more seasoned activists stand with them in support. Their varying perspectives have created a diverse community of creative and inspired advocates who have a real chance to create change.
I firmly believe that as more of my peers take office, we will see concrete action taken to ensure the preservation of our world for many generations to come.
Global temperatures have been increasing substantially.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that “Earth’s temperature has risen by an average of 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit (0.08 degrees Celsius) per decade since 1880, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit in total.”
While this may not seem like a large amount, this accounts for a rise of over 20 degrees in less than two centuries.
A change in 20 degrees can be the difference between majestic icy glaciers and puddles. It can be the difference between a warm, hospitable environment for marine life and a hostile water wasteland.
NOAA also reported that “the 10 warmest years in the historical record have all occurred since 2010,” with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reporting data that 2022 was “the sixth-warmest year on record.”
This is extremely concerning, as these numbers are projected to continually increase at a rising rate if significant change is not enacted.
Many of my peers who feel similar to me in their fear and frustration over climate change but have no knowledge of how to channel their passion into action:
I encourage you to research currently existing and proposed laws, and reach out to your governmental representatives to endorse the laws you identify with.
In addition to legal research, exposure to data, speeches, studies, documentaries and even full classes, will help you understand climate change on a deeper level and build true credibility on the subject.
No age is too young to get informed and involved in climate change advocacy.
From local to global levels, there are always initiatives and organizations in need of assistance.
Within Florida, the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit, works to address climate change issues, ranging from educational programs to environmental disaster relief.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the largest and most influential global environmental protection organizations, working to protect endangered animals and ecosystems and find creative solutions for people to coexist safely within the environment.
As a high school student myself, I am often questioned on my knowledge and credibility in my arguments for legal action against climate change, but environmental protection is my passion.
I took environmental management my junior year and attended a college program on environmental protection and global health in public policy over the summer. I hope to study environmental engineering and political science in college, so that I can enter governmental conservation and join the team of advocates fighting for our planet.
I know that if we all make a conscious effort, we can save what is left of our planet before it’s too late.
Colleen Anderson is a senior in the Alachua County Public School system.