Nothing is quite as sobering as droves of elementary school-age children around the world skipping school to ask their governments for a viable chance to inherit a habitable Earth. From Sept. 20-27, over 7.6 million children, parents, grandparents, neighbors (re: humans) around the planet disrupted their daily lives to strike against government inaction regarding the ongoing climate crisis.
Oxford was no exception. On Friday, nearly a hundred students, professors and children and parents gathered in the Circle, armed with colorful sidewalk chalk and witty cardboard signs in 90 degree September weather.
“We have less than twelve years to protect our homes and our children from danger that will be irreversible,” said Heather Toney, local leader of Moms Clean Air Force. “This means more floods, more damage that we cannot change… I don’t know about you, but I actually like the Earth. I’m not ready to move to Mars.”
Every week, I sit in a dystopian literature class and become more and more convinced that we are, in fact, living in an environmental dystopia, a world in which colonizing Mars is not off the table. Whenever I get a news notification to my phone, I feel a slight drop in my stomach. It is as if, unwittingly, I have subscribed to a flavor of the week club for the newest condemning piece of evidence.
“North American bird population has dropped by 3 billion since 1970, study reveals,” states Fox News.
“Air pollution particles found on foetal side of placentas – study,” says the Guardian.
“As Amazon Smolders, Indonesia Fires Choke the Other Side of the World,” reads the New York Times.
Sometimes, though, the notifications do not elicit a slight drop in my stomach – I have come to expect them. As weather events become more prevalent and extreme in nature, climate norms are continually redefined. If the intentional deforestation of the Amazon, our Earth’s lungs, did not move the needle toward global political action and consensus, then what will? You do not have to look as far as Brazil to be concerned, though. Instead, look to the flooding in the Mississippi Delta, threatening our most vulnerable neighbors, our crops and our economy.
So what, then, do we do when today’s children ask for a chance to survive into their 20s and I ask for my fair share of 80 years? Will we deny culpability and say we didn’t realize we were like frogs in water once cool and inviting but now brought to a boil?
We have cast our pearls before swine, forsaking the quality of life of current and future generations in exchange for the complacency and conveniences of today’s social, political and economic structures. If we believe that there is anything unique and beautiful about the human experience worth saving for future generations, then now is the time to act, in the hopes of mitigating the crisis human activity has already set in motion.
We must be honest with ourselves: forgoing plastic straws and believing in human ingenuity are gratifying, but they will not be enough.
Action will require sacrifice like never before seen: the reframing of an unending global economic growth model, the uprooting of current agricultural and industrial practices and the rejection of modern conveniences. With a crisis so immense, it is daunting to know where to begin. Yet, individual actions must compound in collective social and political will, holding ourselves and our government accountable on behalf of our species.
Hundreds and hundreds of years from now, Earth will still exist, regardless of human action or inaction. Will we?
Ainsley Ash is a junior public policy leadership major from Meridian, Mississippi.