You had a future, so should we

For decades the world has been swatting away evidence of climate change. But we need to confront it.

PROTESTING THE ‘climate emergency’ in Jerusalem, late September. (photo credit: OFIR DAGAN-LUKE)
PROTESTING THE ‘climate emergency’ in Jerusalem, late September.
(photo credit: OFIR DAGAN-LUKE)
I am not a climate scientist. I am a 16-year-old who is dealing with a crisis far beyond my mental capacity. I have to wrap my still-developing brain around the idea that I was born into a world that is being hurtled at extreme speed toward atrocities that are no longer vague theories but calculated threats.
For decades the world has been swatting away evidence of climate change like flies. The constant buzz is now so loud that one would need earplugs to ignore it, as many choose to do. We do not need only climate scientists, we need people to amplify their words until they are no longer ignored.
We are the amplifiers of this message, the embodiment of a call for action. This is an unprecedented moment both in its global relevance and its young leadership. Around the world, the lines between youth and adult responsibility are blurring. Youth is often perceived as self-centered and in this case we are, because by standing up for the climate we are standing up for ourselves. The insistence of our leaders to remain negligent and their refusal to take action on climate change is robbing us of a future.
It should not be our job to worry about our future at such a young age. However, it is a burden that many of us have taken upon ourselves out of an understanding that the people who have the power to care for our future choose to direct it toward their own.
“The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” said Greta Thunberg, a 16 year- old girl from Sweden at a UN conference in 2019. Her courage inspired millions of students around the world to voice their demands. They understood that the best way to get adults’ attention was to refuse to go to school, and that led to the establishment of “Fridays for Future.” March 15, 2019 saw the first-ever global climate strike – it was estimated that over 1.5 million students protested. It was a call for action that had never been seen before. Just six months later the number of protesters increased fourfold and the movement spread to 240 countries. Their message is clear: If you don’t care about our future, why should we? We are only at the beginning of what could be the biggest movement the world has ever seen.
Inspired by students’ actions worldwide demanding that their government take responsibility for the results of their inaction on climate change, the Israeli movement “Strike for Future” was formed. We demand that Israel reduce 50% of the emission of greenhouse gases by 2030 and 100% by 2050. In my mere 16 years of life, I have already witnessed the effects of climate change. I can only imagine the changes that my 96-year-old grandmother has lived through. I have grown accustomed to hearing the breaking news on the weather channel. The ever-growing heat waves and extreme temperatures are not records to be proud of. These changes have become so normal to us that we have lost sight of the bigger picture. That is very alarming.
Data collected by measuring stations in Israel show that the average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees centigrade between from 1950 to 2017 – half a degree more than the world average. Instead of this fact leading to immediate search for solutions, the topic remains at the bottom of politicians’ priorities. For instance, only 9% of Israel’s energy is renewable. As a start-up nation, we have the tools and the potential to accelerate the already existing innovative solutions. We need to stop accepting the prevalence of climate change as normal and demand that our leaders follow suit. We are the ones who will pay the price of their passivity and it is a price we cannot accept.
I AM taught in school to prepare myself for a career and a future. I am not being prepared for the future in which 12 years of education may not matter at all. People will die from air pollution, crops will fail and fires will rage. It is cruel to send children into such a bleak reality and not educate them about the ways to prevent it. Until Strike for Future’s demand is met and an educational program on climate change is set into motion, it is our job to educate ourselves and others. In a country so affected by climate change, the topic is rarely publicly discussed. We cannot blame people who choose not to believe that climate change is real when it is not given the attention that such a crisis deserves.
The word “crisis” brings up images of blaring alarm bells and a flurry of activity, but when paired with the word “climate,” it seems to be stripped of all its urgency. The time is quickly approaching in which the damage that previous generations have inflicted upon the world will be irreversible. The youth do not have the luxury of waiting until we are old enough to make decisions from positions of power. We cannot vote or run for the elections nor are we CEOs of influential organizations. It is within our ability only to fight until we are no longer ignored by the decision-makers and policies are set to ensure our survival. The only way our efforts will be effective is if we are joined by adults. We work alongside many organizations who are taking responsibility in creating a safe future.
Though we are seemingly unqualified, the power that we have is unstoppable. We are unified beyond any country, watching our governments’ every move and every promise that remains unfulfilled. It is an existential fear, raw and painful turned into action that is changing the world. It is a true belief in a better future and a drive to work until it is realized. Our dreams have had less time to be trampled on and our morals are less withered by the harsh realities of the world. I believe that when I get to be as old as my grandmother, the changes I will have witnessed are of taking responsibility. There will be a mass awakening; I can already feel it boiling below the surface. We need believers to lead this movement.
Humanity stands before a crucial crossroad. The path of inaction leads toward a changed reality with loss and pain. We are walking the alternative path, one that will lead us toward a better future. Which one will you choose?
Adult movements that fight the climate crisis include Parents for Future and Extinction Rebellion (XR). Keep updated on the events organized by Strike for Future that are open to people of all ages by following our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or on regional Whatsapp groups. For more information: [email protected]
The writer is a 12th grader at Adam High School. In her free time, she serves as a youth movement counselor and enjoys creating art and music as well as hiking.