By Django Grace, a middle school student and organizer in Brattleboro
Recently, I opened a political magazine my family gets weekly. I was probably just trying to find the funny tabloids, but I stopped on the world news page. There was a diagram of the seven continents, with highlighted countries where the news came from. As I began to read the news, I realized that more than half of all the world news was about climate change. And the thing that gripped me most was the fact that the news was spread out all over earth. There was not one cluster of lit up countries that had all suffered from the same natural disaster. No, the news on climate change was scattered evenly out throughout the world, each place affected differently in awful ways. Record temperatures of over 115 degrees Fahrenheit were set in Australia and thousands of wild animals had perished, while in Chicago, temperatures were lower than on Mount Everest. And the most grieving piece of news was that our own President, the man our country has to look up to, tweeted “What the hell is going on with Global Warming?”, in response to a weeklong cold snap. “Please come back fast, we need you!” he wrote.
Is this the state the world has been reduced to? Are we really going to sit and watch the only inhabitable piece of matter within hundreds of billions of miles become destroyed, just so some big corporations can make money? Just so we can keep living in our safe little bubble? You may say that it is not that drastic, you may think that the climate has changed before, plants and animals can adapt and the weather is the weather, but really deep down inside, is that really what you believe?
This is the place where our moral compass comes into play. It is the little voice in the back of your conscience, that gut instinct inside making you feel bad for ignoring the shivering homeless man on the street with no shoes. While you may want to fight for one side of an argument because there is more in it for you or because you want to stand alongside your friend, sometimes the other side is really what you believe is right, what your moral compass is steering you toward. But most of the time, you may choose to ignore that moral compass because it is easy to stay on you safe side of the argument. At this point you have contradicted what your instinct is, putting greed and self gain over the greater good, and you have effectively become your own enemy. Are you waging that battle now? Because I know that your moral compass is on a beeline course toward the end of climate change.
Yet it is still so easy to conform. It is easy to drive the car instead of walking, leave the lights on while you are away or heat your house using fossil fuels. It is so easy to hide from climate change. In fact, it is easier to hide from climate change. It is here that you can actually transfigure your moral compass, hammering the hand to bend in the other direction, convincing yourself that what you are doing is okay. It was a tactic used by British settlers murdering and stealing from indigenous Americans to justify their actions and convince others that they were the good guys. But you can change the shape of a compass all you want, smash the lens, distort the hands, cover up and rewrite the engravings on it, you cannot change the fact that the north pole is the north pole, and somewhere under the shell you have placed upon you compass the hand is twitching up, subconsciously and ever so minuscule, but still there. It might take a while to find it, but yes it is there. And once we go the extra mile, work for what we know is right, break free from the walls society has built and follow our moral compass, we step into history. Every hero, every icon, has broken these walls, and that is why we know them. Have you ever looked up to a person who let themselves be controlled, ignored the wrongs in their lives, and sat compliant while the world was crashing down around their ears? Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old climate activist, recently called corporation owners across the world to “stand on the right side of history”. I invite everyone to stand on the rights side of history.
Climate justice is not just a movement for people that live in places that could actually be affected. It is not just for far leftists or naturalists. It barely even a movement. Climate justice is a duty, placed upon every sentient being on this planet, and should you choose to ignore it. I stood in protest on March 15th as part of the global climate strike. At the first protest, we stood in front of the local high school. What made me sad was that most of the kids getting out of cars and off buses didn’t even look at us. I realized we were kind of being looked at as hippies, the eco-weirdos who want to save the whales. That is not what climate change is about. Right now, I think in America it is considered uncool to stand up or be out of the ordinary. Either this needs to change, or climate change needs to start being looked at as not a social issue, but a global crisis. Only we can change that view, and we can no longer let this issue be taboo.
The simple truth is, climate change is not something to prepare for. We can not stop it before it happens, because it is already here and it is already happening. The only thing we can do is make direct action now. We are at the last point in time where we can actually stop climate change before it becomes irreversible. Your children will not have the option to change it, so there is no excuse to procrastinate anymore, like our ancestors have. We are knowingly causing the extinction of life as we know it, there is no more plane way to say it. There is no longer time to wait, no longer time for negotiation. The time for that was thirty years ago, when climate change became a reality and no one took action. This is a reality I hope anyone who reads this accepts, and I hope you can get the guts up to listen to your moral compass and join the movement, because we need warriors.