Stories of students who were inspired to fight climate change, and why you should be too.
“Growing up, I was not taught nearly enough about climate change or environmental studies,” said Bridget, co-president of Students for Environmental Awareness, a student run group at Tufts University.
Now a leader within the environmental community on campus, Bridget explains that it took until high school for her to truly be inspired to become an environmental advocate. She’s soft spoken but speaks deliberately about the event that made her an environmentalist.
“My high school’s environmental club, Roots and Shoots, held an ‘Earth Day Extravaganza’ every year where speakers came in each hour to talk about different aspects of climate change and what they do in their careers to address this huge issue. My sophomore year I went to this event and it was the first time I had really heard about climate change issues in depth.”
After learning very little about environmental science for the first 16 years of her life, Bridget was exposed to a new reality about the planet. She had always loved the natural world, but this event made her realize how deeply it is in jeopardy; it spurred her into action: “I joined Roots and Shoots, later leading the club, and for the rest of my time in high school I continued to get more involved and invested in sustainability. Caring about the environment changed from an extracurricular activity to something I am deeply passionate about.”
Bridget and her Roots for Shoots Co-Leader
A far cry from her high school sophomore self, Bridget is now studying engineering and environmental studies, heading one of Tuft’s largest environmental student groups, and leading an initiative that pressures the university administration to commit to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. She’s seemingly tireless in her defense of the planet.
Andrew, a junior at Iowa State University, also heard very little about climate change and other environmental problems while he was growing up. He recounts his childhood relationship with environmentalism, which at best might be labeled ‘nonexistent’, “I have not always cared about the environment. In my childhood, I recall taking up to hour long showers, excessively using plastic water bottles, and having no knowledge about the agricultural industry and its effects on pollution,” said Andrew.
He credits a high school engineering project with introducing him to the world of renewable energy, “I believe the first time I encountered going green is when I learned about hydrogen solar cars. I had no idea how they worked but I was just instantly fascinated by the fact water could create power, as could the sun and wind.”
Like Bridget, once Andrew finally learned about the challenges facing our planet, he was quickly drawn in. Now a junior at Iowa State, Andrew wants to work to engineer clean forms of energy.
Andrew at a creek clean up in Ames, IA
Bridget and Andrew’s stories show the importance of exposure to environmental news and science. If we want people to live more sustainably, support greener public policies, and altogether advocate for the environment, they need to be informed about the cost of their actions on the planet. But because climate change, biodiversity loss, and the entire slew of looming environmental problems have the potential to be so terrifying that they’re oppressive, people also need to be shown that many people are working determinedly towards solutions. These problems are complex and potentially catastrophic, but we can still take action to minimize their effects.
There is hope, and it’s beautifully embodied by passionate young people like Bridget and Andrew. They’re intelligent, stubbornly optimistic, and they take responsibility for creating the world that they want to live in.
“I want to see a future where people don’t have to worry about an energy crisis or oil spills killing thousands of species of ocean life,” said Andrew adamantly, “I want that future, so it’s my job to make it happen.”