Everyone has heard about climate change. Everyone. Whether you’ve read an article on it from time to time, or heard it in passing from the reporters on your TV Screen, or if you were half-asleep in your science class, there’s a high chance you’ve heard about the topic. And on at least one of those occasions, you’ve heard, seen, or discussed that age-old question – Why is climate change important? And, more importantly – why should it be important to us high schoolers?
The industrial revolution kick-started a new way of living for the United States. It changed something in everyone’s lives, no matter who you were. Looking back, it almost seems inevitable. Chemical production and automated machinery weren’t the only things shifting into place either, as people also had to deal with an increase in population density. In other words – more people equals bigger cities, bigger cities means more coal, methane, and carbon dioxide (commonly known as greenhouse gasses) entering the atmosphere. Which our Earth has been putting up with even today, but how much more can it take?
Scientists have been warning us about the state of our atmosphere for many years now. And the reactions to the data are either to be sad about it, or start arguing. Debates on climate change have varied from whether our impact as humans has really had such a massive effect on the Earth as scientists say, to claiming faulty science and misleading models, to those who claim that climate change is a sham, and it doesn’t exist. By this point there are many who simply don’t believe that the increased temperature and elevating sea levels are a red flag. However, that doesn’t change the data that’s been here for years, telling us over and over again that global temperatures are changing, and not for the better.
“When I first moved to SLC, I was shocked by how terrible the air pollution is, especially during inversion season. I often wake up with a sore throat, itchy eyes, and fatigue when the air is bad. There have been many days where our air quality is the worst out of all cities in the world. It seems like the air pollution is getting a little better over the years, but some of that improvement might be caused by the pandemic.” Said by Mr.Tyler Lamming, sharing his experiences with pollution and inversion in the area.
Pollution doesn’t just have an effect on the planet, but it has a distressing effect on teenagers as well, specifically how our brains are developing. Growing up in a place with bad air quality has been linked to increasing stress and anxiety levels in teens. Throw that in with tests, homework, exams, exciriculars, and responsibilities outside of school that most teenagers are already dealing with, and there’s a perfect recipe for disaster.
“We’re already starting to see some of those impacts, like the wildfires this summer, and just the excessive heat waves that we’ve been having, and the massive flooding events that we’ve had all over the country. So I think that’s going to continue, having these intense and dramatic weather patterns,” said Erin Capra, one of the Biology teachers here at West when I asked her about the impacts climate change and pollution has had on Salt Lake City. The chances of inversion season and temperatures in the summer hitting new highs not only staying the same, but potentially getting worse, is a shockingly real and present possibility. And to put that into perspective, that could mean that by the time the current freshmen are graduating seniors, their lungs will still be feeling the effects of breathing in air that isn’t healthy for them unless everyone puts in the effort, not just our representatives or everyone at the Whitehouse.
Now, am I saying that your number 1 reaction should be to panic and hide under a bridge? No. In fact, that’s part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now. Because people are more prone to being sad about what’s going on with our planet, rather than actually doing something about it. The more of us in West who are actively aware of their carbon footprints, the more we can do to right what’s been wronged in not only our community, but all over the world.