CHS students hold up signs during a climate change strike outside of the high school on September 27th, 2019. This was the second of two strikes regarding the future of the planet, the first one being on September 20th. (Sophie Furdek)
Caught Up in Climate Change
Despite attending protests and strikes, do most CHS students actually make efforts to combat climate change?
Everyone looks forward to popsicle day in cross country when our coaches lug around a huge white cooler full of thin fruit popsicles. The team devours the whole cooler in minutes as they chat and enjoy the cool-down after a sweaty and difficult practice. During this time, I regularly see my teammates slurping down the frozen dessert and proceeding to toss the stained sticks over their shoulders, not looking back to see if the stick even made it into the trash can. And very frequently, popsicle sticks are left littered on the ground as people begin to pick up their backpacks and head home.
Erica Schuppan is a janitor at CHS, making her a first-hand witness of the wastefulness of Clayton High students. “I think they can be more attentive towards what they try to recycle, because sometimes they throw food in the recycling cans,” she said. “I notice that students also leave a lot of personal items, and [they don’t really] come back for them.”
But, CHS students have not been silent on the issue of climate change either. On September 20th, a group of Clayton high students gathered at City Hall in downtown St. Louis to listen to speakers and march through the streets. Another strike was organized on September 27th outside of the high school.
But do the majority of CHS kids really care about the environment?
Everyday, I use the restroom twice during the school day. And every single day, I witness students mindlessly pressing the paper towel dispenser again, again, and again, until they’re tearing off a sheet of paper towel that is about one and a half feet long. These immense amounts of paper towels used every day are incredibly unnecessary and excessive. 51,000 trees are cut down each day to produce paper towels for North America alone. When these paper products decompose, they also produce methane gas, which is a major cause of global warming. If everyone in our school could simply cut down on the number of paper towels they used, how much waste could we prevent from going into the landfill?
The people who are attempting to recycle are being undermined. Many high school students have begun joking about people trying hard to recycle or use reusable items, labeling them as “VSCO girls”. Hearing someone say “save the turtles” now makes many people think of memes about girls wearing tens of scrunchies and waving around metal straws rather than a movement to protect one of the world’s most critically endangered species. These jokes can be funny, but they’re beginning to take away the meaning and significance of actual pressing issues. So maybe it’s time to stop.
Many people argue that it’s unimportant for us ordinary people to pay attention to our lifestyles since the issue mainly stems from factories and their wasteful habits. However, the EPA released statistics in 2017 showing that only 22% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions were from industries. The other big chunks of the pie chart were from transportation (29%) and electricity (28%). So while yes, industries do contribute huge amounts to the climate change issue in our country, so do we and our lifestyles.
We often get so caught up in criticizing the prominent leaders of the world that we forget to address our own problems. How many of us could begin biking to school instead of driving? How difficult would it be for us to start bringing a reusable water bottle to school instead of buying bottled water from the vending machines? Instead of worrying about how “pretty” our homework assignments and classwork look, couldn’t we start using scratch paper instead of stacks of looseleaf every year? As busy and stressed out Clayton students, we frequently make our own convenience our top priority without paying any thought to the ways our actions could harm others and the earth.
In the month of January, Greta Thunberg spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. “I think it is insane that people are gathered here to talk about the climate and they arrive here in private jets,” Thunberg said. And this applies not only to the big politicians, but to the young people as well.
It’s true that we need to focus on the big things, like the politicians leading our country denying the issues at hand and ludicrous claims of “clean coal”. These things all play big roles in the deteriorating state of our planet, and it’s inspiring to see young students taking initiative and actively pursuing change. However, we are also guilty. Protests and strikes are meaningful, but so are changes to our own lifestyles.
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