Students from the Burlington Sustainability Academy Sushila, Sarah, and Barsha reading a poem they wrote together at Wednesday’s Youth Speak Out

Last Wednesday, 350Vermont facilitated a youth speak out at ArtsRiot in Burlington. It was an inspiring event, with youth varying in ages sharing their thoughts on the world and its struggles they will eventually inherent. Below is a sample of the power words heard that night, by a student named Ethan Ireland, entitled Greed. 

Greed is a very potent force in today’s society. It keeps many hard-working people poor, and many not-so-hard-working people rich. Greed is so potent, in fact, that it literally kills people and destroys the environment. That’s correct. Through exploitation and stubbornness, greed is killing this planet and everything on it.

Firstly, oil companies are doing their best to keep people dependent on oil and other fossil fuels for energy. This pumps a lot of greenhouse gases and toxins into the atmosphere. Acid rain is one byproduct of burning fossil fuels. Normal rain is slightly acidic from compounds within the air. But elevated levels of certain compounds can make the rain unusually acidic – much to the detriment of wherever it comes down. Another byproduct of burning fossil fuels is the greenhouse effect. Normally, the atmosphere has just a little carbon dioxide, keeping us nice and warm. However, elevated levels of greenhouse gases kick the greenhouse effect into overdrive, toppling ecosystems and food chains. This is very true of the ocean, where many species are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Already species are dying due to climate change, and not just in the ocean. Humans may or may not follow.

Greed is also killing people. Many people, especially in third-world countries, have died prematurely due to pollution. People are also severely underpaid in some places so that the people at the top of a certain company can make more money. Minimum wage is barely enough to sustain most people, thus the term “starvation wage.” Most minimum wage workers can’t support a family, and they need help from government programs, such as Medicaid, Welfare, WIC, and others. Then, the people at the top, e.g. the owner(s)/CEO(s) of Walmart, complain that their tax dollars are going to people who can’t support themselves. It is a cycle caused by the greed of people who make way more money than needed. Many companies also hire people only part time so that they don’t need to pay for their employees’ healthcare. This adds fuel to the flames of the cycle of blame.

Greed is most certainly a force to be reckoned with. It destroys so that the rich may have more. But does one need billions upon billions of dollars? The people at the top may tell you ‘yes,’ but the correct answer is no. We must put an end to this, and ensure that all may have a fair shot at getting what they need.