As a youth in our constantly changing world, the movement to preserve our environment is growing, but I can envision an even better effort for such a cause. In my daily life, I attend school and then go to crew activities. In my community and while traveling to races, the amount of pollution in our world truly stands out. “How gross the Schuylkill River is from chemical pollutants” is a running joke as we travel to races, but it isn’t entirely untrue. The Schuylkill River is rated as the third most polluted waterway in the state of Pennsylvania. The issue of pollution is present where I live with plastic sprawled throughout the marshes and back bays. Obviously, it is preached that pollution is bad and we need to reduce our individual footprints, but I’m not convinced that enough members of our society are actively participating in solving this issue. I personally believe that the solutions to our issues lay in the strength of our youth and communities, as well as government regulations regarding pollution emissions.
Our youth are exposed to a vast variety of the world’s issues due to social media and other news information sources. It’s no secret that many young people are aware of the problems at hand, but there isn’t much they can do to express their desire to make a difference other than volunteering. I believe that society should work closely with our youth to address environmental issues by bringing the conversation to clubs, school courses, internships, and more. The best way to get someone, particularly young people, to be interested in something is to get them involved. Many schools offer students clubs that align with someone’s personal beliefs, interests, and resume building needs like Key Club, Student Council, and various honor societies. If the environmental needs of our society established stronger connections with school communities like these bigger clubs, the drive to make a difference will increase. Most people like being involved with something they can make a valued contribution toward.
Getting young people involved may also have a positive impact on their parents. If someone is passionate about something, chances are they will talk to their parents about it. These conversations will spread awareness of environmental issues and needs from child to parent. From there, our society is not only attempting to solve the pollution issues at hand but also setting a standard for the future. Most parents want to establish a positive example for their children to model and learning how they can do that may come from a multitude of sources, so why not the other people in their home.
It seems that there are large corporations that can get away with producing mass amounts of pollutants that end up in rural communities and nature. These pollutants come in the form of Carbon Dioxide (a greenhouse gas), litter, and fertilizers in our waterways. Not all of these emissions are solely the result of big corporations, but a large amount are. For instance, energy companies release billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yearly through the combustion of fossil fuels. This increases the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere which traps heat in our planet, destabilizes ecosystems, and creates extreme weather abnormalities. Shipping and food companies generate enormous amounts of plastic waste that end up in waterways and environments everywhere. Farming corporations and landscape companies using large amounts of fertilizers produce mass runoff into waterways which cause algae blooms and offset ecosystems. Many of these companies seem to function without regard for our environment because it is cheaper and faster than implementing safer and more environmentally friendly practices. Consumers purchase their products because they are typically cheaper, which is a motivator for some. What can be done to combat the mass emissions of pollution?
This effort must start higher than the corporations: the government. To combat the release of carbon dioxide, provide limits to energy power plants based on their carbon footprint. For the plastic industry, allocate funds to research biodegradable options that can match the price of plastic. This sounds easier than done, but the first few steps need to be taken even if they aren’t effective at first. Our government needs to be more conscious of what the investment they are making into our environment is actually accomplishing, and it needs to be a bigger discussion within our everyday lives. And that starts with our youth raising awareness with their parents by encouraging the patronage of environmentally friendly businesses, or those with a strong stand on conservation, preservation, and protection of our natural spaces.
These suggestions may seem to be a shot in the dark, but we need to start somewhere, and we need to start strong. We as a society, a country, and a world need to stop fueling the issue that will cost us in the long run. I may be a young person with an optimistic perception of the world, but we need to do a better job of protecting our planet and environment. We need to give the youth something to interact with and be passionate about that benefits the state of our world. Our government and the world need to stop the issue at its roots and impose stronger environmental standards. We need to start treating the state of our environment in accordance with the severity of its conditions and not just gloss over the need. We need to start somewhere, we need to start here, and we need to start now.
Submitted by Jake Tracy, EarthShare NJ Youth Ambassador currently attending High School in NJ