Who Will Help the Environment?

November 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

With the reelection of Barack Obama as US President now exactly one week behind us, many environmentalists have been asking whether he will be more active and decisive on environmental issues. It’s debatable the extent to which Obama promoted green initiatives in his first four years, and environmentalists are hoping to see an increase in environmental stewardship in the next four. All across the blogosphere, people have been debating whether Obama truly plans to help the planet, whether he even can, and what might happen if he doesn’t.

I definitely can’t give you a better answer than the experts, but I will say that I have hope. The past couple months have seen a nationwide drought, wildfires in Colorado, and, most recently, Hurricane Sandy that wrought unprecedented destruction on the east coast. I think people are coming, perhaps slowly, to a recognition that climate change is a force to be reckoned with. Whether or not this realization will last long enough to allow for collective action is hard to tell. A similar interest was roused after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but we barely talk about that storm’s causes or consequences anymore.

Nonetheless, I hold out hope. I’ve seen my generation of young leaders with their impressive awareness of climate issues and it gives me a spark of inspiration that we can, in the future, face this problem more cooperatively than has been the case so far. Most of us took some version of Environment 101 in college, and some were even being taught these principles from childhood, either by their school or informed parents. I’m part of a group on campus that visits local elementary schools to teach kids about different kinds of energy and why conservation is important. And after every visit, whether it be in Princeton or Trenton, I’m gladdened to see that most of these youngsters are aware of what energy is, how we can save it, and that it’s an important thing to do.

So even if President Obama can’t solve all our environmental problems in the next four years (as no president could), at least I know we have a generation of people growing up and ready to take control of this country that understands the importance of the environment and the need for change. This isn’t to say that I expect nothing from Obama: in fact, I’m hoping he starts soon enough by blocking Keystone XL. But I’m also saying we have to rely on ourselves as a collective to ask for and enact change, and this, I believe, will become increasingly possible in the years to come, thanks to better environmental education on the part of the generation above us. Those previous generations might not all be onboard with an agenda to fight climate change, but they at least managed to reach out to us younger kids, who will be ready and able to take over and fight the good fight.

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