On April 22, community members gathered together on the Newton Centre Green for an Earth Day rally sponsored by the Newton Democratic City Committee’s Climate Crisis Subcommittee. Speakers included Congressman Jake Auchincloss and State Senator Cynthia Creem, as well as high school students, Tali Wachman and Hanning Lu. Their inspiring calls to action below were for all generations to greatly increase their committment to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Hi, my name is Tali Wachman, and I’m a sophomore at South here in Newton.
Over the past couple months I’ve become interested in learning about our world. Through chemistry, politics, history, and more, I’ve learned a lot about it.
About 5 or 6 months ago, my history teacher Mr. Kozuch, whom I’m sure many of you know, had us do an assignment concerning climate change. He presented my class with a software called EN-ROADS, that simulates climate change, and allows us to move levers symbolizing different environmental policies. Through this simulation, the goal was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius per the Paris Agreement.
To reach the goal, nearly every policy was put into place at the extreme; practically every form of energy was highly taxed, there was an extremely high price on carbon, reduced gas emissions, technological breakthroughs, incentivized electrification, and more. In class the next day, Mr. Kozuch asked us, “Does this make you feel better?”. No. No this does not make me feel better. This was the first that I had heard of climate change in school.
It’s one thing to hear about issues on the news or at the dinner table, but something about hearing it in my classroom made it real. To achieve an even slightly livable planet, these policies really should have taken effect years ago. And how is it, that I’ve been in school now, for eleven years, and climate justice has never even been brought up. I began to realize how much needed to be done to save the climate, and it hit me that the only way to impact the climate is to take action myself. From there, I attended the MIT CATE conference in Boston, and started a climate club in my school under the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition.
With my deeper understanding of climate change has come a sense of anger. Me, a high schooler, can take initiative and fight for my planet, my space, and my future, but the adults around me can’t? Me, a sixteen year old, need to convince adults that my future needs protecting? This is a world my generation didn’t mess up, yet I’m the one who’s fixing it.
To make things more difficult, the legal system doesn’t support the youth. I can’t even vote for decision makers that focus on the issues that will directly affect me in my lifetime.
So to our legislators- I briefly mentioned the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition that I’m a part of earlier. A large portion of what MYCC does is writing and advocating for youth written policy to be put into place. MYCC has been working extremely hard to get Bill H.496- The Interdisciplinary Climate Justice Education Bill into effect.
Differing from the several other bills legislators have submitted so far, this bill is youth written and is advocating for climate justice and action. The bill calls for The Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a Climate Justice Education Council that would write curriculum standards about Climate Justice and implement it into schools. It is crucial that this bill is reconsidered. It isn’t just a bill. It’s giving us a chance to actively make change for ourselves.
Studies have shown that “student choice leads to increased engagement and empowerment.” This is what we want. If we had learned about climate change when we were younger we would’ve grown up caring. Consuming less, turning off lights, the tv, unplugging cords. It sounds small but it matters- because education raises awareness. Awareness reaching the right people creates leaders- the ones who will take action and spread it. So let’s make sure the youth learns.
We’ve stepped up. We’ve shown that we care, and it’s time that our legislators, teachers, parents, and supporters show us that they care too.
I’ve lived in Newton for four years, and I noticed something. Our streets are very empty. I notice the absence of people walking, or biking, as well as the absence of public transportation. Many people choose to drive in a wide and dispersed city such as Newton, thousands of cars pass this area every day while the busing system and the T remain barely accessible to many residents. I still remember the period when I moved here, having to spend two hours commuting from Brookline to Newton without a car, with an hour spent waiting out the bus. We choose to create the extra exhaust instead of using more sustainable public transport. Moreover, we are used to it.
At school, the lunch period is a time of extreme waste. We easily throw away unfinished food, milk, and uneaten fruits, knowing that they will eventually all go into the trash. Compared with other schools, we do have less attention put on composting, and recycling as well. No one pays much attention to the sorting of trash in those bins, leading to an extremely inefficient scenario. Most importantly, we’re all used to it.
In fact, we are very accepting of living a rather unsustainable lifestyle. Living in a relatively rich suburb, we often don’t personally experience the effects of climate change. We don’t feel the results of producing more car exhausts, using more oil, wasting food, and overspending on electricity. While other people are bearing the brunt of the impact. On a macro level, we see increased approval of oil, natural gas, and coal mines; on a micro level, we are wasting resources and being the overconsumer.
Ignorance is the first step toward destruction. Luckily, we need to celebrate the fact that we’ve been moving toward success. On a national level, there is the Inflation Reduction Bill, and on a local level, we have solar panels built in the public library’s parking lot. Furthermore, we, the youths in the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition, have been working on the Interdisciplinary Climate Education Bill with our adult allies. Combined with ideas from people from multiple districts, we are aiming to include a climate-related curriculum in multiple different subjects, as well as trying to involve climate activists in the planning. As we want to make our school environment for the better, we are voicing our ideas.
I want to leave you with one message: listen to the people. Climate change is no longer an empty issue floating above our heads, it’s falling, drowning millions of people, displacing them, and burning their homes. Unnaturally strong snowstorms, hotter summers, increased hurricanes…those are all signs that we need to act. Insufferable air, water pollution, and wasting resources, on a more personal level, are signed that we need to act, and we need to do this together. I urge you to hear the voices of people in all communities, especially those close to power plants or who are historically vulnerable and unable to defend themselves under climate injustice. Listen to women, listen to people living in poverty, listen to teachers, and people of color, and listen to all. Listen to youths.
This is a battle to save our own lives that requires all fighters. Our voices matter.