The Earth is dying, here's what you can do

Hi! My name is Eric, and I am writing from Muskogee/Creek-occupied land in Alabama. Although I am still young, with every passing year I hear more and more catastrophic reports from around the world about hurricanes becoming more powerful, droughts becoming more persistent, wildfires becoming more frequent, the list goes on. I am a very nature-oriented person; I’ve always had a profound love for the environment, and being outside has always been a source of healing for me. When I see these pictures from around the world of garbage obscuring shorelines, of oil choking out marine life, or of any disaster that hurts the earth, it pains me. I love everything that the planet has to offer, and there is such beauty in nature; watching its destruction is a travesty. None of us have the luxury of apathy or ignorance anymore. I care deeply about fighting climate change, but that passion should be present in everybody; we ALL need to have that fire because we are all fighting for our future and our planet. We have no backup world. This is all there is, and we need to start fighting to save what is left of it. 

Happy Earth Day!

Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, climate change is severely impacting the Earth. Even before the first smokestacks of the Industrial Revolution started belching black smoke into the air, people, especially LGBTQ indigenous folks, have been fighting against environmental devastation. In the approximate past century and a half, the amount of pollution in the environment has increased to unfathomable levels. Every statistic, fact, report, and research paper on the impact of human influence on climate change in just the past century leads to one irrefutable truth: we as humans are not living sustainably. This issue affects everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, or any other factor. It is an LGBTQ+ issue as much as it is a heterosexual, cisgender issue. The Earth is being smothered under a blanket of plastics and greenhouse gases, and when our farmland is burning and the ice caps are puddled around our waists in the wreckage of our homes, we will find out that money is not edible. As natural disasters are continuing to occur we know that Queer and Trans people particularly Black and brown low-income folks will be heavily impacted. 

Such a monolithic problem requires drastic actions to be taken. Countries have taken measures to fight against climate change, and some corporations and businesses have introduced policies and strategies to be more environmentally friendly. Several organizations and movements have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and to combat the monumental problem we all face. Speakers at the United Nations General Assembly presented scientists’ projections that only 10 years remain to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. If we want to have a future, every person, corporation, and the country is going to have to take action. 

On a less macrocosmic scale, there are ways that you and I can continue to be environmentally conscious without knocking down the door of the Senate and demanding change. Anybody can make changes to their habits to be more considerate of the environment, and if enough people make those changes, then they will add up fast. 

Here are some ways that you and your school can be more eco-friendly: 

  1. Try to make as many things digital as you can- go as paperless as possible. 

Roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down every day, and a significant portion of those trees go to paper production. Paper production also creates a large amount of air and water pollution; producing 1 ton of paper contaminates nearly 20,000 gallons of water, and the paper industry accounted for about 20% of American air pollution. [1]

  1. Conserve your energy; if you’re not using it, turn it off/unplug it.

Leaving electrical appliances on standby needlessly consumes energy. More powerful appliances such as light fixtures, computers, and air conditioning can consume a significant amount of energy if used unnecessarily. [2]

  1. Reduce hot water usage.

One of the biggest energy consumers is water heaters- 18% of an average household’s energy goes toward heating water. Therefore, by washing your clothes in cold water more often, taking shorter/cooler showers, and overall using less hot water, you can not only save a noteworthy amount of energy but money as well.[3]

  1. Ditch plastic whenever possible.

80% of plastic bottles end up in landfills. 100 billion (100,000,000,000) single-use plastic bags are used in America alone in a single year, and only 1% of those bags are returned for recycling. After one use, the majority of the estimated 40 billion plastic utensils used annually in America end up in landfills and waterways (plastic cutlery is not recycled even if it is put in recycling). Avoid plastics when you can. [4][5][6]

  1. Don’t waste food.

30% of food is wasted throughout the global supply chain, which contributes to 8% of overall global greenhouse gas emissions. [7]

These are small steps that can create a cumulatively drastic impact over time with enough participation, but if you want to know more ways to be eco-friendly, there are plenty of online sources with great ideas. (Just make sure they’re credible!) 

            The National Youth Climate March is another display of protest against climate change that many schools, GSAs, and coalitions took part in, and it is just one of many ways that you can take similar action.LGBTQ students are continuing to lead the movement, you can check out their work at Zero Hour or Our Climate Voices. We will continue to voice the need to fight for climate justice. It is all of our futures that are on the line. You can take action individually, and you can also get members of your GSA to start joining in. You can use your GSA to spread environmental messages around the school, and you could even organize a project to try to reduce cafeteria food waste. Environmental issues affect each of us, regardless of any differentiating factors that may exist among us, so let’s get the word out and do our best to make people start caring.