By Ezra Wallach
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was scrolling through my Snapchat stories when all of a sudden something caught my eye — a NowThis video. The page read something like “Scientists Predict Catastrophic Flooding as Product of Sea Level Rise.” I was intrigued.
As I clicked on it and continued to read, I saw projected images of what Florida might look like by the year 2050, and how it basically wouldn’t exist if the climate warms by another two degrees. I quickly double tapped the home button, closed the application, and realized how screwed we are by climate change. I continued to think about it for the remainder of the day and for days after.
This was my junior year of high school, and since then, I’ve barely worried about climate change on a daily basis. Sometimes, I feel guilty about it, because it will drastically impact my life and the lives of others. But at the same time, I feel like by not thinking about it, I may be doing the right thing. When I do think about it, and realize that our lives will probably be upended, I often reflect on the moment and recognize how much more precious that makes every minute.
As the most anxious generation in the history of humankind, we worry about all kinds of future possibilities when we probably shouldn’t. We worry about the miniscule things, like who will ask us to prom or what grade we will get on our midterm — things that, in the grand scheme of life, don’t really matter. No one tells us that we should worry about these things, in fact we are often told the opposite. We hear about it every single day: don’t be concerned with things you cannot control, and always stay in the moment.
And so, the idea of climate change as an existential threat presents us with the ultimate contradiction. On one hand, we have the idea of living in the moment, and on the other hand, we have undeniable evidence that the state of society will be made considerably worse in the future by a gigantic global threat.
It is my belief that the biggest challenge to stopping catastrophic climate change doesn’t revolve around getting people to believe in the fact that it exists. Instead, the biggest challenge revolves around getting people to actually care. While I can say that I am a believer in climate change, that only does so much if at the same time I am unwilling to treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.
So, if you are like me, and often see news of climate change and deflect by thinking about something else instead of taking empowered action, you are not alone. You are not alone, but you are a denier too.
Believing in climate change doesn’t have any stand-alone impact without action, and so the millions of Americans who believe in the evidence but are unwilling to do something about it presents an almost insurmountable barrier to the movement.
The fight for climate change is different from any other movement in history. The impacts of climate change will almost certainly kill more people than either World War, and are even killing people right now, but the fear of a destroyed planet won’t actually come to fruition for another few decades. We don’t like to think ahead and worry about the future, but in order to mass mobilize people to confront climate change, we are going to have to.