Why I Cut Class For The Climate - The Years Project

Why I Cut Class For The Climate

By Azalea Danes

I became a climate activist the day after I learned that such a thing existed, on March 1st of 2019. It took me just under 24 hours to decide that the climate movement was the single most important thing happening in the world. With more passion than experience, I helped to organize the New York global strikes of March 15, May 3, and May 24. My friends joked for the remaining months of my junior year of high school that I had become an activist overnight, which of course, I had. 

More than anything, working in a grassroots movement like this one has opened my eyes. You see, before reading Greta Thunberg’s United Nations speech, I knew many of the facts of climate change, sure, but I did not really accept any of them as my reality. So while I did not strike every Friday like the handful of New York City students who I look up to for their immense passion, every day I feel a greater impending sense of doom, akin to climate anxiety. Of course, there is only one way to curb that anxiety, which is to work to ensure that every living person knows about and talks about climate change. I was fortunate enough to be able to give a speech in Times Square at the last global climate strike in New York on May 24th. Guerilla-style, I stood on a grate, yelling through a megaphone about the two paths we can now take. 

“Here’s choice one:
One day, there will be a memorial on the moon.
Several feet to the left of the once great American flag.
It will inscribe in moon rock the toils and triumphs of mankind on earth
Who selfishly brought on the end
The end of a billion species
The end of magnolia trees
Of hoards of bees
Of cougars and old men and redheaded girls.
Of the children of those who didn’t believe in climate change.” 

“Here’s choice two:
Einstein
called upon a law to carry us out of strife.
‘The world is a dangerous place to live;’
He said,
“not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
One day, an army of children will rise up
they will band together and say
You are a danger to our world.
Yes, you.
You who choose to throw your plastic on the ground.
You who choose to drill for oil.
You who choose to drown in wealth made from the subjection of the masses,
and the suffering of the planet.
You who choose to let carbon burn to no end.
You who choose to stand idly by and say oh-
Someone else-
Someone else will do something about this.”

The UN has just warned us that climate change related disasters are now occurring at a rate of about once per week. We are fighting a losing battle, because we are still building pipelines, drilling and burning oil, and doing all the million other self-harming practices that are slowly killing us all. Scientists have told us that the curve of emissions must be sharply decreasing by 2020 (NEXT YEAR) in order to reach stabilization of carbon dioxide levels. When that stabilization occurs, which will be decades after the emissions being produced are less than the amount of carbon being absorbed into carbon sinks, those carbon sinks such as our oceans and soil can begin to absorb the carbon to reduce warming. The real issue is that we produce those emissions at such an increasing rate that we have very little time left to reach carbon-neutral levels to stabilize our Earth. Every day this fight becomes more pertinent, and the only way to fight it properly is with facts. Facts that are used in art, writing, policy, all corners and crevices of the media, and daily conversation.

Every effort does count, meaning that the push for people to switch to metal straws and switch to sustainable clothing consumption absolutely has an impact. Unfortunately, climate change cannot be solved by even thousands of people going vegan, or choosing to not purchase single use plastics. We, the youth climate strikers, beg for the leaders of the world to listen to the climate science that has been around for decades. It doesn’t matter how much money it will cost, or how inconvenient it is to switch to green energy and reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. It has to be done now, and it will only be accomplished by a surge of people working tirelessly together every day. The challenge is immense. It is impossible.

And yet, it is the only option.