Editorial: Climate change demands teen action- now or never


The facts speak for themselves — Earth’s temperature is up 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. Global sea levels are rising 3.2 millimeters per year. The planet’s polar ice sheets are diminishing at a rate of 286 Gigatonnes per year. Recent news details an impending “Day Zero” in Cape Town, South Africa, in which the city is slated to run out of fresh water after three years of drought, causing a public crisis some have likened to 9/11.

Cape Town is one of the first major cities to face severe water scarcity, and it won’t be the last. A recent study by Science Advances magazine warns of a potential “megadrought” which is expected to hit the American Southwest by 2050 and may last decades.

And we’re doing this to ourselves: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activities are a major cause of global warming. And “human activities” does not only entail energy consumed and gases emitted by large scale business projects, as over two-thirds of humans’ environmental impact is caused by everyday household consumption.

Western lifestyles in particular yield significant harm to the environment. Data produced by the Global Footprint Network suggests that if every person on the planet lived the way Americans do, based on the products we buy and the food we consume, four earths would be needed to sustain us. What may seem like benign, everyday consumerism can cause extensive damage to the planet– our everyday habits and purchases are filling the atmosphere with carbon and sapping the earth’s supply of fresh water through.

American diets, which are characteristically heavy in meat and dairy, are very taxing on the planet because of livestocks’ immense greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock emit hundred of millions of tons of methane, which is between 25 and 100 times worse for the planet than carbon dioxide, every year. Animal agriculture is also a leading cause of water usage, deforestation and land desertification. Going meatless on Mondays and even switching to a more plant-based diet are among the most effective ways for an individual to reduce their contribution to climate change.

“Fast fashion,” a growing practice in America which entails mass-production of low-quality, low-cost garments, is yet another major environmental burden. Fast fashion’s breakneck production rates fuel the textile industry’s 1.2 billion ton manufacturing emission total. Within a year of production, two-thirds of clothing items end up in landfills, where they emit greenhouse gases as they decompose for centuries. Stores like H&M and Forever 21 are major contributors to fast fashion and its environmental ramifications.

The root cause of clothing’s environmental impact has to do with consumerism and the cycle of supply and demand. The way it is, we are buying too much– more than we need. And in response, companies produce more clothes, which emits greenhouse gases. And only months later, the clothes lie in landfills emitting even more greenhouse gases.

Reducing meat and dairy consumption is a solution to consumers’ strain on the environment. Buying clothing secondhand and donating old clothes are additional solutions. Purchasing from clothing brands that prioritize sustainability, like Everlane, Levi’s and Patagonia, as well as getting into the habit of investing in fewer higher quality clothing items instead of many cheap clothing items are also environmentally-beneficial habits to get into.

Consumerism is one of the few things every individual has direct control over in terms of our country’s impact on the environment, so we cannot ignore it and point fingers solely at the government and big business. Defeatism can no longer be the answer to the question “how can one person help?”