Worldwide, people continue to wrestle with the ongoing impacts of climate change. The first “Fridays for Future” global climate strike of the year took place this past Friday, Sept. 24, with youth leaders at the helm. At the same time, policymakers and businesses continue to fund expansive oilfield extractions and other endeavors with high risks to the health of the environment. Others continue to deny the existence of climate change altogether. According to a recent study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, today’s toddlers “will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents.” 

How do you think climate change and the ongoing debates surrounding it will continue to impact the behavior, character and lives of future generations? Do you think there is a feasible solution to climate change as we stand now? Is there one in which individuals, communities, leaders and nations can realistically work together to nurture and prioritize climate health?

Prof. Charles Chester (ENVS)

A climate guru once noted that humanity has three options in the face of climate change: mitigate, adapt or suffer. A key point here is that these are indeed “options”—which is to say that we have a choice about where we go from here. Frustratingly, we already had that choice when scientists gave the first strong warnings back in the 1980s, but the world’s leaders instead made a conscious decision to shut down research into clean energy. If I had to summarize the overarching message from Greta Thunberg and the movement she’s inspired, it would be this: Our generation can make better decisions than those of our parents’ generation. These decisions cannot alter the fact that we now live in a changed climate, the deleterious effects of which are becoming more evident. And in a couple decades, around the time I hope to catch up on movies in a retirement home with AC, things will no doubt have changed even more. But the decisions we make today about our energy and land management systems will determine the degree of that change. This matters, particularly to those who will be alive in the year 2100…which could well include the majority of students enrolled in my current course. 

Prof. Charles Chester is a lecturer in the Environmental Studies Department.

Rebecca Avilés, MPP ’22

Madeleine Jubilee Saito is an illustrator and cartoonist. Her work is something I turn to when in need of hope and inspiration about the climate crisis. There is one cartoon I revisit regularly. In a colorful four-square illustrated grid, it reads: “Can you imagine the community that will heal the climate crisis? It will not be just you. It will not be a technological salvation. It will be all of us.” 

After over 10 years of studying and working in the sustainability and climate field, I know that the greatest ‘tools’ in fighting climate change are our community and our belief that our lives and world are worth protecting. Climate news is depressing. In the US we are simultaneously fed stories that downplay climate science, and stories that tell us our futures are already sealed. I say: don’t buy it. Every gain and step away from a fossil fuel-based economy, no matter how small, is a win. We can no longer mitigate climate change with a single solution. We need all solutions.

Rebecca Avilés  is a second year MPP student at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Her studies focus on energy and climate justice.