9 January 2018

Africa: Why I Care About Climate Change

My name is Joelle. I'm a 20-year-old student, living in Canada, and an environmentalist. To me, being an environmentalist means I care. But what does it mean to care? According to Google dictionary:


(Verb) Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.

(Noun) Serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk.

Okay. That sounds about right.

A more important question, however, is why is it that I care so much about the environment and climate change?

I care about climate change because I see it as one of the greatest threats of our time. I also see it as one of our greatest opportunities. The potential outcome depends on the choices we make today.

If we hold on to our resistance to fundamental change, I foresee a future of devastating natural disasters, geopolitical conflicts over resources, surging refugees, and exacerbated inequalities, in a politically and economically unstable world.

But I have an alternate vision as well. I can also see us taking advantage of the opportunity that climate change has granted us, to revolutionize our global system towards one that is more sustainable, just, and equitable.

Within these grand paradoxes lie many more reasons that I care about climate change.

I care about climate change because I find the constancy and distinctness of our four seasons comforting. I would rather a future where winters entail playing in the snow and bundling up by the fireplace to drink hot chocolate, and autumns where I can see the foliage magnificently change in color, and hear the sound of fallen leaves crunching beneath my feet, than a future where seasons and day-to-day life lose their consoling predictability.

I care about climate change because many of the people closest to my heart come from all around the world. I would rather see a future where all nations, cultures, and people can prosper than a future that leaves entire countries - filled with people I love - in ruins, or underwater.

I care about climate change because growing up, being told that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted was an incredible gift. I want a future where my children have the same opportunities, not one with a high probability of global chaos.

I care about climate change because I would rather see a world where all are given the chance to live happily and safely than the world we see today, where billions already suffer from conflict, discrimination, poverty, extreme weather events, and displacement.

I care about climate change because one paradox it presents is particularly troubling: people who contribute the least to the problem are the ones suffering its most brutal consequences. I don't want to live in a world where the prosperity of the most privileged is contingent on the suffering of the most vulnerable.

I care about climate change because I see the future as malleable, depending on the choices we make. Without widespread action on climate change, it is likely that the decisions of today will propel us towards the gloomiest of futures I have described. However, we already have the technologies and capabilities to solve the problems we face - and we must mobilize them.

I challenge you to take a few minutes. Think about the world we live in, and the possibilities that lay ahead. Think about which definition of 'care' speaks to you. Are 'feelings of concern or interest' enough for you? Or do you desire to 'do something correctly or to avoid damage or risk?'

These are questions only you can answer. Politics and science can't tell you how to care about climate change.

The question now lies with which road to take, individually, and collectively: action or inaction?

I wholeheartedly believe in the power that lies in the way that we think about climate change. Car manufacturer Henry Ford once said: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right."

Joelle Moses is a student at McGill University in Montreal, and was a youth delegate to the 2017 UN climate talks in Bonn.

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.



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