A week ago, more than 1 million student activists in 100 cities in the U.S. and around the world mobilized for a global day of action, walking out of schools to protest inaction on climate change. Angry and frustrated that adults have not acted, they marched to preserve our natural world and advocate for changes to promote sustainability.
Youth Climate Strike, a national group organizing the walkouts in the U.S., declared, “We, the youth of America, are striking because the science says we have just a few years to transform our energy system, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent the worst effects of climate change.”
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist who, since last August, has skipped school each Friday to push people to take notice and commit to fighting climate change, inspired the youth movement. “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope,’” Thunberg said in January. “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
Environmental activism gained momentum after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in October. “Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” said the report, which presented troves of scientific, technical and socio-economic information and concluded, “limiting devastating temperature increases will require unprecedented changes in society, but will have huge benefits.”
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the report’s findings show we urgently need to do the following:
Decrease energy demand.
Lower emissions from energy supply.
Actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Fully decarbonize the electricity sector by mid-century.
Ensure renewables are the world’s dominant energy source by 2050.
Balance land-use between sustainable agriculture practices, bioenergy production and carbon storage.
A daunting list, but there’s a way you can make a difference. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle — in that order — is a great place to start. You don’t need to make huge sacrifices. Wear the coat you bought this year for at least one more winter. And hang on to your cellphone longer. It’s probably not functionally obsolete after just two years, but upgrading to a newer model has a huge environmental impact. According the New York Times, a 2015 study found that 178 pounds of CO2 are released to assemble each new device and mine the 60-plus metals inside it. Research by McMaster University engineer Lotfi Belkhir found if the worldwide spread and frequent replacement of smartphones continues apace, there will be a 730 percent increase in their carbon footprint between 2010 and 2020, the Times reported.
Clearly, we need to commit to reducing our consumption and wean ourselves of our disposable culture. As one Scarsdale man put it, “Every plastic bag [people] use, every shirt they buy, everything they use has some effect on the bigger environment.”
Carrying forward the spirit and substance of that message, The Inquirer today begins a series of articles on sustainability. The first installment explores actions Scarsdale residents are taking to follow sustainable lifestyles and reduce their carbon footprint. You may be surprised to read about the benefits they are reaping, both financially and psychologically.
Future articles will delve into the schools’ efforts to teach Scarsdale students about sustainability, and will examine whether our local and county leaders are doing enough.
Scarsdale has become a beacon to other communities for its green initiatives, including recycling, composting and repurposing. But we can do more. Our series aims to contribute to a broader awareness of those efforts and the resources available locally. By shining a spotlight on sustainable living, we hope to provide insights that will inspire readers to find ways to help preserve this world for future generations.
As one Scarsdale resident told our reporter, “It’s important that if you want to look forward to the world you’re leaving for the next generation that you’re aware of what your impact is.”
Let’s take up this meaningful endeavor together. Tell us about your efforts to live greener lives and let us know what questions you have, so we can find the answers for you.