Be Creative and Determined.

Samantha Smithies, 17, is a youth activist dedicated to climate justice in Albany, CA. She serves as the Chair of the City of Albany Climate Action Committee and recently passed a student council resolution calling on Congress to take action against climate change, the first to specifically mention Juliana v. United States.

Samantha Smithies, 17, is a youth activist dedicated to climate justice in Albany, CA. She serves as the Chair of the City of Albany Climate Action Committee and recently passed a student council resolution calling on Congress to take action against climate change, the first to specifically mention Juliana v. United States.

When I overhear conversations about climate change, the present is rarely mentioned. It’s about 20 years, 50 years, or a century away. If you’re already in the middle of your life, that distance provides a sense of absolution. Lack of certainty about what the future will look like and the inherent displacement of the consequences of our actions provides a justification for inaction. But if you will be around to experience that future and are not willing to ignore the present, to share the sentiments of the generations before us will be catastrophic.

Climate change continues to be in connection with deadly and destructive natural disasters: wildfires in California to extreme rainfall and devastation from Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the Southeast. The average global sea level has risen by 7-8 inches since 1900, coral bleaching is widespread, the arctic is warming at a terrifying rate, weather extremes have become significantly more common, and global flooding and extreme rainfall occur at 4 times the rate of 1980.(WWF) The evidence is overwhelming and terrifying. The consequences of climate change are happening now, yet our social and political responses are still delayed. Complacency is no longer acceptable. The United Nations IPCC reports that we have less than 12 years to prevent long-lasting or irreversible changes. We no longer have the time to wait around for others to take the action we need.

This urgency must propel our determination. It will not be an easy battle. Climate change does not standalone; it is deeply interconnected in a web of social issues. The distribution of climate change impacts and vulnerability to them aggravate and compound existing inequities. Tackling climate change will require a complete overhaul and transformation of our culture. To be successful will take concerted, large-scale effort. We must confront those who are apathetic with compassion and education, and call for action from even those who seem unwilling.

We, as youth, have historically fueled this type of change. As young people, we will feel the full ramifications of climate change. We have an opportunity to take charge and question how the generations before us and the institutions who are responsible for us have failed us.

There are infinite ways to join the fight. Spread the word about Juliana v. United States and support other youths dedicated to climate action. Call on Congress to take action against climate change through school board resolutions. Speak to your government representatives. Take personal action: walk to school, eat lower on the food chain, avoid single-use plastics. Join or organize climate justice demonstrations. Present to your City Council or serve on advisory bodies in your local government. Be creative and determined.

Being young does not take away our autonomy and the power of our voices. Speak because you are affected and will be affected by this issue. Speak for yourself, not because an adult is asking you too. Do not be afraid if you meet resistance. Do not step down if you are not being listened to. Let each of your decisions be a chance to make a difference.

We will inherit the future; at least, we should be able to decide what it will look like.


Caitlin Howard