Anne Lee wrote the post below before she knew her team’s work would be featured on HuffingtonPost:
She has a sincere desire to improve the world in which she lives. These are her words:
A polar bear cub. Stranded on an Arctic raft of ice. He probes the water with his paw. To a poor-sighted mammal, safety looks to be an unchallenging strait of water away.
The cub struggles to keep from drowning. Everything is black.
I wake up— cold sweat drenching my body. Flashbacks to my second-grade climate change unit. I know they show us these graphics to force us into transient pity, but this doesn’t lessen the impact. I focus on his eyes; inches above the water, they are filled with fear.
The scariest part is that this is not a unique incident. According to the New York Times, the temperature in the Arctic oceans has risen by 7 degrees, and the Arctic air by 18 degrees. National Geographic covered a study predicting that we will have our first ice-free summer in the Arctic as early as 2040. The distance between bodies of ice grows, polar bears are swept further away from life-giving stability, eventually forced into death by drowning. As a second grader absolutely infatuated with anything describable as furry, I was heartbroken upon learning this information. I had my fair share of nightmares those nights. There, I, 8-years-old and clearly ready to change the world, vowed that I would devote anything— even my stuffed Border-Collie Fuddles— to restoring harmony to these animals.
Fast forward 8 years— I still want to fight climate change. Older, however, I realized that polar bears are not the only ones being harmed; changes to our atmosphere are one of the biggest human rights violations in history. Even though developed countries, including the United States, emit the most greenhouse gases, developing countries pay the price. Droughts in Madagascar & South Africa, typhoons in the Philippines, and climate refugees in Bangladesh have all been linked to climate change. Worse, these countries don’t have the resources to mitigate the impacts caused by these disasters. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 250,000 people will die to climate change related issues between 2030 and 2050 – the majority of whom are children.
Last year, the world finally came together to take action. Almost 200 countries signed the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent average global temperatures from rising above 2°C in comparison to pre-industrial levels. The significance of 2°C? Scientists have concluded that if we are unable to stop average temperatures from rising by 2°C, longer droughts, more intense heat waves, disruptions in food supply, stronger hurricanes, and rising sea levels will be inevitable. Raising global temperatures by 2°C passes a danger point, in which the consequences of climate change will be disastrous and irreversible. To prevent this, the United States set the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28%, in comparison with 2005 levels.
Unfortunately, our new administration has threatened to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord Already, many have taken to challenge this action— through marches and other protests. However, my team and I, at Tesla STEM High School, have taken a different approach; regardless of whether or not the new administration decides to follow through with the Paris Accord, we have lead Tesla STEM High School into pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to those of the Paris Climate Accord. We also launched an organization, Schools Under 2C, to challenge other schools around the nation to do the same. Through simple educational programs, we have been igniting behavioral changes throughout our school, and aim to set a precedent for other schools across the nation.
On February 1st, we initiated our compost program. We also began monitoring and reducing lighting usage within each classroom, and are on set to meet our goal to meet standards stated by the Paris Climate Accord by the end of the month. We are currently on track to reduce our school’s carbon footprint by a one and a half tons each month. In doing so, we are proving that you can reduce your carbon footprint through simple behavioral changes. Climate change isn’t impossible to fight – we already have the technology to do so. We just need to take action. Even if our administration is willing to deny this problem, we can’t.
Now, are challenging other schools to follow this example and reduce their carbon footprint as well. Visit our website, http://www.schoolsunder2c.org, to learn more. Whether you are a student, teacher, school official, or anyone else who wants to get involved, sign a pledge on our website to reduce your school’s greenhouse gas emissions, and we will get in touch with you to help you take action in your community.
Please join us. The time to act is now. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our generation. We need to take action before it is too late.