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  • Writer's pictureArielle Kouyoumdjian

Recipe for Social Change (Not Climate Change!)

I’m still searching for the most impactful ways to catalyze change in this society; it’s a question I pose to every expert I interview. I’ve met those who believe change happens primarily at the individual level, and I’m also inspired by those like Mr. Salinas, who mobilizes change at the industry level. Sometimes I wonder why the raw facts of climate change itself aren’t enough to scare those in power into overhauling the entire social, political, and economic systems that got us into this mess in the first place. Civil disobedience can be an incredibly effective way to enact widespread change: from the civil rights movement to #Me Too and Black Lives Matter, mobilizing around a shared concern demonstrates to those in power that we will not sit quietly when our lives and families are in peril. Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future initiative inspired me to organized and lead a climate walkout for my own school. Before I mobilized fellow students, I spoke to my school’s administration. They fully supported us. I feel that involving those in power, or in this case simply the adults in charge, is key to effective change. Communication and mutual understanding must be achieved before change can occur. As a journalist, I feel I have an obligation to create and enhance understanding amongst stakeholders.

However, my generation’s inability to vote is our primary obstacle in enacting real policy change. While the 1.4 million young people stampeding through streets around the world in the middle of a school day certainly turned heads, climate policy has hardly budged. Greta Thunberg’s hot-blooded speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit left the audience rapt and in tears, yet they did not feel strongly enough to introduce profound policy action. She literally became a poster child - a cute photo op for world leaders who did little more than give her a hug and a pat on the head. Inadvertently or not, the world relegates youth to be seen and not heard; I believe that youth need to continue to make themselves heard until we are finally listened to. Until my generation can vote, it is up to adults and industry to quelch the overconsumption and unfettered production driving our planet to pot.

Beyond protests, we need concrete action that everyone can get behind. I think that financial incentives would encourage adults to commit to change. Taxing and/or capping carbon emissions, halting financial support for fossil fuels, and subsidizing sustainable energies would be a starting point. Additionally, we need to address a growing apathy towards climate change amongst my generation; when nothing is changing but the climate, youth begin to grow hopeless and passive. In order to prepare today’s youth to become caretakers of this earth, we need to be equipped with accurate information, the ability to apply it, and tools for negotiation. The climate crisis should be at the crux of every aspect of education, intertwined with every subject.

Lastly, as a hopeful journalist, I believe the media needs to cover climate change with the same vigor as any other crisis: the pandemic, elections, Brittney Spears, you name it. Climate change needs to dominate the news, in its panic-inducing entirety. This is happening now. Rather than a smattering of indigestible climate data whenever the COP conference rolls around, the media needs to present the stories of individuals and communities devastated by climate change to truly make an impact.

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