Alec Loorz is a guest contributor to Green Scene. He is currently participating in a National Geographic student expedition to Iceland. Alec’s posts are his personal observations of his experience and of his commitment to climate change awareness.
What We Need to Save the Planet for Future Generations
For many reasons, the climate change movement has not been able to bring about the changes we need to actually solve the climate crisis. Even though there are many people putting hundreds of millions of dollars and years of time into the effort, I am not sure we are any better off now than we were ten years ago.
If anything, we can say we’ve made climate change a mainstream topic. So, that’s something. Most people I talk to today have at least heard about climate change, and most have an opinion.
But we’re still not anywhere close to a sustainable society, which is what we need to survive.
I think I have an idea why. In comparing this movement to other social movements in the past (civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, independence movement in India led by Gandhi,) there’s one main difference that sets us apart: we are not suffering. Our lives are not personally affected by climate change.
In other movements, a specific group of people whose lives were personally affected by an injustice stood up to make their voices heard. Their suffering held them together as a movement.
For most people, at least in the United States, it’s still abstract and distant, and too ‘scientific’ to fully understand and be passionate about. It’s a political issue without passion, without suffering.
By the time the majority of people begin to feel the worst effects of climate change and begin to suffer…it will be too late. We can’t wait for that to happen.
We need, instead, to awaken empathy. People need to see that climate change is already personally affecting millions of people and animals all over the world. Empathy is our only hope. Only when we are able to suffer WITH others, can we lead the revolutionary changes we need to make.
I talk to thousands of
people every year about the urgency of climate change and inspire people
to make changes. But it’s not enough. It’s not even real enough to
me. So, I’m making it a personal quest to go to places affected by
climate change, finding people and creatures and land and water that is
already personally affected, and bring these stories back to those of us
who have the power to help.
I’m beginning this quest this month,
with a trip to Iceland with National Geographic student expedition
program. I’ll be joining a dozen other high school students to study
climate change, filmmaking, and photography in Iceland. We’ll be
trekking on glaciers and lava flows, taking a tour of a modern
geothermal power plant, and talking to local residents about the effects
of climate change in their communities.
I will be blogging and
making a film about the effects of climate change on the people and
land of Iceland, and bring the message that people are already affected
by this crisis. But, more than anything else, this will be a personal
journey for me, so that I can begin to personally see the effects of
climate change and suffer myself. I need to move beyond reading about
climate change to be able to relate to those most affected now in order
to advocate for those of us who will be most affected in the future.
have a feeling that this is not just any cool experience, but the
beginning of a new life for me. I am going to open up my heart to be
broken by reality. I hope I can communicate the urgency, along with the
empathy needed to bring about true and healing revolution we
desperately need…even if we don’t feel it personally it yet.
Learn more about NG Student Expeditions National Geographic Student Expedition Blog.
And read more posts from the students on the NGSE Iceland Blog.