I have been having dreams about sleeping through my alarms lately. The dreams always end the same way – in them, I wake up startled, realizing what has happened, but by then it is already too late.
In my waking life, I hear alarms all the time.
I study climate change. I am a budding scientist. I am a community organizer. I am a twenty-two year old who is all too aware of what greenhouse gases mean for my generation: we will be living the consequences of a problem so monumental, it will affect every aspect of our future.
Most of my research has been in the Arctic. I remember the first time I saw glaciers calving in Greenland.
It was 2AM. The sun was out – as it always was in summer – and low on the horizon. I was hiking with other research assistants, walking along treeless tundra. I could see for miles. Every step I took left a deep imprint in the grasses. I felt the weight of my feet – knowing the Arctic landscape, I was acutely aware that those footprints would last for years, at least.
We perched on a mountain ridge and sat facing the ice sheet.
And, then, it came – immense thunder in a cloudless sky. Then, a piercing crack.
Before it could even register, five skyscrapers tore off and turned into icebergs. Never in my life have I felt more like a speck of dust.
Most of us know all too well what climate change means for our generation. We are told by the most respected, serious, and intellectual people that we will have no future to live for unless society comes together as one common humanity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Then, we are told by decision makers, adults, this same society, that our youth renders us powerless. How can we live with the grief of knowing we have no lives to look forward to? Should we even consider bringing children into this world when we know the world is betraying their own right to live?
Today, world leaders gathered in Paris to kick off the COP 21 United Nations climate talks – the biggest climate change conference of this decade. More Heads of State were in one place today than any other time in history.
I sat with other young people in these same halls. We collectively held our breath as we watched Barack Obama, François Hollande, Vladimir Putin, and Justin Trudeau speak.
“I believe, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that there is such a thing as being too late,” President Obama said. “And when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, if we act now, if we place our own short-term interests behind the air that our young people will breathe, and the food that they will eat, and the water that they will drink, and the hopes and dreams that sustain their lives, then we won’t be too late for them.”
All the while, the United States is still a country deliberately undermining the U.N. climate process.
We are young, and terrified.
Our fear is rooted in the immense love we have for this world.
My biggest fear in life is to see our world leaders act on climate change – to see our governments acknowledge what it means to be human and to feel the suffering of others, to show compassion – to cry happy tears, and then to wake up.
We are all young and seeking meaning – we have barely established our own identities.
How can we love ourselves, love each other, in such a broken world?
How can we love this world if it is so broken? How can we hope when, as we speak, world leaders are holding hands as they walk into oblivion? They are negotiating our futures away.
Love this world till it hurts. Foster an aching love for everything around us – clear skies, dandelions, untouched snow, sunshine, the feeling of bouncy grass against our bare soles.
Find it within you to love this world in spite of its brokenness. Love it because it is broken.
In the face of climate change, love is all we have left. There is hope at the heart of this all – we are young, but we know what the future can look like, and our love for the world pushes us to continue working on making it better.
The alarm bells are ringing.