Seventeen used to be the age where teenagers were just starting to find their place in the world. As I look through old hard drives for photos from my youth, I can recall Friday nights being special; football games, bowling, skating, and although I don’t condone it, it would be disingenuous to my childhood not to mention street racing. We were careless teenagers. That’s not the case anymore.
With so many catastrophic events happening caused by climate change, teenagers today face a different reality. Kids have to fight for their future now. A future that, for most of us, was just expected.
I can remember many things from my youth, and some things I wish to forget but never do I remember strategizing with my friends on policy changes from our city and county governments. Instead, I had less important things to worry about, like what to wear or what CDs to bring in my 5-disk CD holder for the day. In my defense, the existential threat of climate change wasn’t in our faces every day. We learned about climate change in school, but our families’ houses weren’t burnt down every year from wildfires.
Teenagers today are faced with the harsh realities the effects of climate change will have on their futures. Rather than enjoying their times as kids, they have to spend their evenings after school organizing and protesting their city, state, and national governments to take action so that they too can have a future on this planet. “This crisis affects me and my generation, so we should be fighting,” Hannah Karsting, a 17-year-old member of Fridays for future Sacramento, Said.
Fridays for future Sacramento is part of an international youth movement started by Greta Thunberg. Who became internationally known for her decision to skip school to bring awareness to the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg has inspired many people to organize climate strikes of their own throughout the world.
Hannah and many of her peers spend their time after school planning protests and demanding action from the Sacramento county board of supervisors. “I feel a sense of absolute morality tied to the climate crisis. There’s no gray area in whether it’s genuinely affecting people; it just is. I felt compelled to because I saw that there was people my own age fighting for our future, and it would not only be morally improper not to join but also wouldn’t make sense for myself.” Karsting said.
When I was in school, climate change was taught as something that would happen in the future, and the most significant thing being sea-level risings across coastal cities. Flash forward over a decade later, and California sees massive wildfires that get bigger and more destructive every year. The East Coast sees increased hurricanes, the Midwest has more tornadoes, and the North has seen less snowfall. Not to mention what is happening to other ecosystems that plants, insects, and sea-life rely on to live. The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity is causing global temperatures to rise. 97% of publishing scientists, according to NASA.
With the increasing threat the climate crisis has on the world, let alone in Sacramento, Fridays for future, and other climate action organizations, feel their political leaders aren’t doing enough to meet the challenge. “The county has been really slow when it comes to climate change programs. They have delayed doing their climate action plan… we do take that as an indicator that they are not as serious as the city is.” Chris Brown, who is part of the Sacramento climate coalition, said. Sacramento county adopted a climate action plan(CAP) in 2011. Still, members of Fridays for future Sacramento and the Sacramento climate coalition don’t believe the plan holds anyone accountable if the county doesn’t reach its goals of lowering greenhouse gases. According to the 2018 Progress Report from the California Board of Air Resources, local emissions have only increased since the county has adopted the CAP. Instead, climate activists like Hannah Karsting are demanding the county declare a climate emergency declaration. “We need a climate emergency declaration because that will enable the county to address the crisis like it’s a crisis,” Karsting said.
The climate emergency declaration is not an end-all to the Sacramento climate crisis, but it allows more resources for the county to enact meaningful change. “It is a first step… under the way the statutes are organized, if you declare an emergency, you have access to other powers in government that are not currently being used. If you don’t declare an emergency, you can’t use those powers,” Chris Brown said.