Young People Demanding Change and the Role of Individual action.

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

There is no question that today's young people are among the most passionate when it comes to protecting the environment. Some of the biggest activists speaking up about climate change are as young as thirteen and have decided to step out of the classroom and into the fight for the planet. The name Greta Thunberg has become recognizable around the globe after all she has done to speak out about the climate crisis, and there are many more children and teens like her doing the same things. And who can blame them? Dealing with climate emergencies as a result of the older generation’s actions can feel like a constant battle. We are the ones expected to find solutions to the problems, but, while the generations of our parents and grandparents are still in charge it can be hard to make as much progress as we need to because they do not view the situation as urgent.

"Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action then we will." -Greta Thunberg

A common nag that many young people hear from their grandparents is that kids today don’t spend enough time outside. And it is true, kids don’t spend nearly as much time outside anymore, so it is funny that they are the ones so adamant about preserving nature. While plenty of young people make an effort to make it to the parks and enjoy the outdoors through activities like hiking and camping, many young people operate under the understanding that you don’t need to love the outdoors in order to know we have to protect it. This isn’t a matter of protecting the forests for the sake of beauty anymore, it’s a matter of preserving the earth so future generations have a chance of surviving and have the same quality of life that we had. People are quickly realizing that the threat of climate change is very real and rapidly approaching, and this is not an issue we can keep putting on the backburner. Many of my peers have expressed that they do not plan on having kids because of their fear of what the world will look like when that child grows up. What will the earth look like by the year 2050? Will our children grow up in a world plagued by suffering and constant environmental disasters because we didn’t do enough to save it? Those are the questions faced by young adults today that clearly show the urgency and helplessness that they feel. This is why we have the desire to act and act fast. But how do we do it?

Do we all have to become zero-waste vegans who take five-minute showers in cold water to solve the problem? While individual action is not only important, it is necessary, we need more than that. Without a combination of major change within the industries directly impacting climate change and pressure put on by the consumer to do the right thing, no progress will ever be made. So far, the only way an individual has been able to put pressure on the animal agriculture industry in response to its negative impact on the environment is by reducing or eliminating meat consumption. I became a vegetarian as a freshman in high school, and have now been vegan for the past two years. I made the switch overnight after learning about the effects of animal agriculture on the environment. One day I ate meat, the next day I didn’t. But after many conversations with my family, friends, and even strangers about going vegan, I can say for certain that the whole world going vegan is not how we are going to save the planet.

People like meat. And I mean people REALLY like meat.

I remember being in middle school and having “bacon” plastered over everyone’s t-shirts, bags, hats, and even glasses. It is a part of many people's culture, from backyard Barbeques to fish fries, meat is what brings people together and for most of us, it is what completes a meal. So the idea that everyone is going to choose to do the environmentally friendly thing and just give it up is just plain unreasonable. But, if there is one thing that we can learn from history, it is that when something we like isn’t good for us, the solution is to find something to replace it, not abandon it altogether.

Experts in 1880 predicted that within the next century New York City would be unlivable because it would be completely covered in horse manure due to the overabundance of horses that people relied on for transportation. Instead, the solution was the invention of internal combustion engines which eliminated the issue of manure filled streets and replaced the primary method of transportation.

Before we know it, clean meat could be the new combustion engine. It will solve the environmental, ethical, and sanitary issues associated with mass meat production without forcing people to give up the foods they love. Since I have gone vegan a lot of my family and friends tell me that they want to cut out meat from their diet, but it is just too hard. Now I just tell them not to worry. Soon, rather than choosing to give up meat, all you will have to do is set down the chicken you’ve been buying your whole life, and pick up the package next to it. The same meat, same taste, same price, just grown without the animal. The idea is exciting, to say the least. No more hearing an awkward “sorry” mumbled under my friend’s breath as they take a bite of chicken, thinking it will offend me. Who knows? Maybe I will even add meat back into my diet in the future.

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