Global Warming is Here; We Have to Act Now


Credit: School Strike 4 Climate

Carter Hanson, Section Editor of Opinion & Politics

People often say that democracy is not a spectator sport.

That much was true last week in Australia, where tens of thousands of students went on strike in protest of government inaction in combating climate change. The reason: raging wildfires across the nation and threats to their wildlife in protected national refuges.

Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but notice the irony. We, too, are facing the same issues just an ocean away. Ask the people of Paradise, CA who are now living in high schools and community centers. Ask the dolphins and whales who will be killed by seismic tests approved by our government off the coast of New England.

The great difference, however, is the students themselves: in Australia they protest.

Why are we, the generation of the future—the ones who will be affected the greatest by the rise in sea levels, the increased magnitude of cataclysmic natural disasters, and the new mass extinction we are now living through—not also taking up the torch and raising our voices in unison? Why aren’t we, too, refusing to accept our assignment in society while our government, the purported manifestation of us, their constituents, refuses to take responsibility and execute their end of the social bargain?

“I am here because I am terrified,” announced Harriet O’Shea Carre, a 14-year-old, to a crowd of thousands of students outside the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne.

Australia’s students are declaring a truth that we, America’s students, are too afraid or ignorant to declare ourselves. Perhaps we understand the challenge we’re facing but simply don’t realize the magnitude of that challenge. Or maybe we just don’t want to put out the effort to do what these Australian students are doing.

And yes, there have been protests here in America about global warming, but going to a march and then going back home to wait for the next one in six months isn’t enough anymore.

The students of Australia rightly denounce their government for not doing enough to combat climate change. How can we, the constituents of a government who has not just sidestepped responsibility in the fight against global warming, but ignorantly denied the truth that climate change even exists, do nothing. In the last few years, our representatives, who are assigned the duty of vouching for us, each and every person who gives them that right, have gone backwards on the environment, attacking the renewable energy industry, expanding fossil fuel emissions, and shrinking our public lands, opening them up for fracking and oil prospecting.

From the hurricane devastated beaches of Florida and Texas, to the far north regions of the Alaskan tundra opened for oil exploitation, global warming is wreaking havoc on the United States. The smoldering ruin of Northern California and the disappearing islands off of North Carolina are the ringing alarms of a coming crisis.

If our government will not confront this ultimate challenge, we must act in its stead. The students of Australia understand that proscribed mandate: civil disobedience is our only avenue forward. Let us, the society of tomorrow, lead this struggle.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is our Yellowstone.