Pacer notes: Adult apathy undermines teen climate action
Over the last few years, students throughout the Lake Oswego School District have turned greater attention to the climate crisis, arguably the most pressing issue facing modern society.
In 2018, the United Nations issued an ultimatum for the future of this planet, backed by unprecedented scientific research, that to prevent catastrophic climate change, global CO2 emissions will have to decrease by 45%, reaching a "net zero" by 2050 — meaning emissions match reabsorption. With the United States' exit from the Paris Agreement on climate in June of 2017, this country abandoned its leadership toward the goal of sustainable energy and a healthy world for the next generation. In frustration with the present situation, and with the unignorable need for change, some students in our community have taken action where until now, there has been none.
The groups at Lake Oswego and Lakeridge High schools that have been leading the charge, known as "Green Teams," are rooted in the students' initiative to make progress where they have seen it lacking in their respective schools. Since the foundation of the Green Teams, countless activities involving activism and tangible success have been realized: the installation of hand driers in Lakeridge bathrooms, student-led composting at Lake Oswego, ivy pulls at both schools, and a joint Climate Strike in order to speak with City Council members and discuss the details of the Green New Deal, where two council members signed the pledge.
The student-led aspect of the high school Green Teams is both the greatest strength and frustration of the work being done. "The best thing about Green Team is when we can see progress being made before our very eyes, and we can take ownership of it because, for a moment, we've been heard," says Lakeridge senior and Green Team founder Anna-Marie Guenther. But, she says "the only response we get from adults is positive affirmation, rather than concrete action. It undermines our efforts to tackle problems head-on, and is an indicator that they aren't willing to do the same."
With students leading the effort on climate change and bringing these issues to local leaders, it is both a victory when the words of students become action, but disappointing when the community leaders with the most power only promote the action of the students, rather than taking action themselves.
By taking the lead on the climate crisis, students are proving awareness of issues beyond the boundaries of our local community, and are reaching to redefine our concept of the world. These are students finding the time out of their day to put the needs of our world before their own, because the future of this world is carried on the backs of those who demand change.
Evan Melendez is one of two Pacer Notes columnists.
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