Everybody knows Greta Thunberg, the 19-year-old climate activist from Sweden. She took the world by storm, organizing Fridays for Future (youth-led climate strikes) and addressing the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit with her famous “How Dare You” speech, which called on world leaders to care about the future of the planet.
Those world leaders seemed to listen, with the European Union and 65 other countries vowing to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But the United States didn’t even speak at that conference, despite producing 12.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions with only 4.2% of the global population. It’s time something changes.
I’m a student at the University of Utah. I’m 19 years old, the same as Greta Thunberg. At 15, Greta was protesting outside the Swedish Parliament; at 15, I was hoping for a cute boy to notice me.
My teen years have been spent knowing that climate change is growing worse, knowing that it would affect me and my friends and family. But I thought that if the U.S. wouldn’t listen to Greta Thunberg, someone who did and fought for so much, then what was the point?
I’ve now come to the realization that I don’t need to be as great as Greta Thunberg; I just have to try. I may not be able to reach a large audience and have the same impact, but I can change my community step by step. All of us, through collective and individual action, can change our communities step by step.
So get out into the community and do your part for climate action by voting, talking to elected officials, joining an environmental club or group, or supporting a campaign.
For my part, I’ve joined Clean the Darn Air, a grassroots group working to get a clean air and climate ballot measure on the 2024 ballot here in Utah. Our measure would dedicate $100 million to local clean air projects and $50 million to rural economic development, eliminate the state sales tax on groceries, and pay for it all with a modest carbon tax on the fossil fuels that contribute to local air pollution and global climate change.
Being a part of this campaign has made me feel like I am contributing to actively cleaning up the environment, and I encourage anyone looking to make a difference to join us and volunteer at DarnAir.org.
The Utah Legislature hasn’t taken climate change seriously and is slow to act, even on obvious problems like air pollution. In an ideal world, legislators would pass laws protecting the air we breathe and the future of our planet. In the real world, however, it looks like it’s up to us. We are the new workforce, the new voters, and we can rise up and fight for our future.
London Kelley is a sophomore at the University of Utah, studying political science, communications and international studies. She is passionate about air quality because, as someone who was born and raised in Utah, she has seen the effects air pollution has on her family’s health.