This is a guest post by ACE Alumna, Chloe Maxmin.
The life of a youth climate activist can be extreme. I've been involved with climate activism since age 12, and as a Senior at Harvard College, I’ve experienced many highs and lows. I've experienced moments of depression—when the adults ignore your voice because "you're a kid,” when the latest IPCC report comes out or when you truly think about what your future will be like in a climate-wrecked world. Then there are moments of elation—when you and your friends build deep relationships that will weather any natural disaster, when world leaders call for climate action, when an old friend from high school tells you that they want to do something about global warming. These ups and downs are a natural part of every person’s life, but with an issue that can be as overpowering as climate change, it’s important to know how to stay motivated and grounded during the emotional roller coaster ride.
The first and easiest way to do something—anything—is to get educated. Learn about climate science. Understand how much the earth has warmed, the changes that we’ve seen, and where we’re likely to go. Don’t just read about the doom and gloom—read about the amazing advances in clean technologies and the actions that people all around the world are taking to address climate change. Look at the young people who are profiled on the Alliance for Climate Education’s website or book one of their award-winning assemblies to educate your school or community on climate change. I’ve seen first-hand what this dynamic educational experience can do to provide hope and passion for climate action.
Now—as Aristotle advised—you can turn virtue of thought into virtue of character. Take that knowledge, and get active - literally. On September 21st, join thousands of people at the People’s Climate March in New York City and march outside the UN Climate Summit to let world leaders know that climate action is the most urgent issue of our time. On that historic day, people will come together, affirm a powerful social movementand create the hope that can nourish each activist as we continue this struggle. Although I once felt uncomfortable in large demonstrations, I have come to learn that opportunities like this can fuel your internal flame for months to come.
As you read, and perhaps as you march in NYC, you may wonder why the world has thus far done so little to address to climate change. Further reading will reveal that entrenched interests—namely the fossil fuel industry—have mobilized their own armies to inhibit climate action. Why? Because addressing climate change would undermine their business model and threaten their profits.
Although the fossil fuel industry may choose money over the future, millions of people now choose the future over money. Through the fossil fuel divestment movement, citizens are withdrawing their investments from fossil fuel companies as a way of demonstrating opposition to the industry’s profoundly greedy behavior.
Divestment has mobilized more people around climate change than ever before because it is an opportunity for the climatemovement to address the root source of inaction. And we are each members of some institution that has something to divest—whether it’s your alma mater’s endowment or your city’s pension fund. Go to www.gofossilfree.org to join a divestment campaign.
Sometimes it’s hard to see that we’re living in an historic moment because we’re bogged down in our daily lives, in local issues, or in the pressures of school, or work. But this moment calls for a generational response in which we come together and display the awesome power of a social movement. From faith to frustration and everything in between, we can’t let fear paralyze us. We must look at the landscape of the climate movement, gather our strength, join together, and start marching towards the future that we deserve. Join us.