Attention all humans: I would just like to announce that your homes are in grave danger. Your earth is under attack, and did you know your government has failed to defend your piece of it for you? They have decided it is more economically efficient to let your land sink beneath rising sea levels and melting glaciers, to let your reefs bleach, to let diseases to kill your fellow man and to allow many of your favorite species to become extinct. Bet you did not know that!
Wonder how I can say all of this and expect it not to be thrown out as trite scare tactics? I have seen it happen. I was there.
Last week two other GW students and I, along with 222 other university students from all over the country, decided to give up our Thanksgiving with our families to go to The Hague in the Netherlands for the United Nations Sixth Conference of the Parties on Climate Change.
We were there thanks to the kindness and generosity of Greenpeace USA and the Student Association, which helped fund us to make sure the U.S. delegates and those representing the rest of the world did not lose sight of who their decisions would affect.
We were there to show the moral high ground to the negotiators whom, for the most part, are and have always been solely economically driven. We were there also to show we disagreed greatly with the stance of our country and that the U.S. delegates did not necessarily represent what is in the best interest of the country’s citizens or even what the citizens really want.
The Australians tried to convince the rest of the world that a sink, a grouping of vegetation that may have the potential to be used like a mop to pick up carbon dioxide molecules, could be anything that a kangaroo can hop over, in other words a shred of grass. But other greedy countries such as the United States worked hard to convince the world that nuclear power is the wave of the future.
Fellow students and I worked hard to defend what nature has created and to destroy the disastrous loopholes large industrial countries have poked into the Kyoto Protocol, the clean air act for the world. Just as the next idea is worse than the previous, each country, mostly for economic and national reasons, felt strongly that they were correct. It is due to this poor understanding of scientific studies and the massive amount of industry funding to politicians that policy makers construe such blatantly ignorant positions. We students can change this. We began to last week.
With more than 200 students at the UN conferences, we were heard. We changed the course of history with our presence and with our actions. We lobbied congressmen, delegates, even industry representatives. We educated ourselves with speakers on all sides of the issue. We held non-violent actions. And we spoke with one very loud voice.
It is said that at the root of every movement are the youth of the day. It is today, that we as youth, must now come together and show our elders that we do care what they are doing and that we are watching them, holding them accountable and looking toward the future. Whether the environment is something you care about, you must live in it, breathe in it, consume the water in it and find your soul in it.
It pains me greatly to see the ambivalence that students tote about the world around them not only here but everywhere. I am not concerned about what passions you choose or what issues you find most important, but what is a concern is what you do about them.
Reading the paper and getting informed about your issue is just the beginning, but it is not enough. We all must work together and communicate with our leaders to see social change. If you yearn to see your water and air clean, your women have more rights, your poor attaining greater wealth and your labor forces have better working environments, you must speak up loudly. You must act and act righteously. It is up to you what you do now.
-The writer, a senior majoring in environmental studies, is president of Free the Planet! GW.