CHAPTER 6: FOCUS ON THE FUTURE: YOUR STORY!

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 Climate change & YOU

Be the change_450.jpgWe’ve learned a lot about climate change and why it’s happening. We’ve also investigated all the ways climate change has impacted life around the world, including plants, animals and ecosystems. We’ve even heard stories about how climate change and extreme weather have impacted people and society. All these stories are very important, but we’ve only heard about what has happened already. We are left asking: what can I do?

There are plenty of ways, big and small, for people of all ages to change the world around them to help make it a better place. Even though it seems that adults are making many of the decisions about the fate of our planet, kids are definitely the stewards of the future. Many have already taken on the challenge of climate change with great success.

In this chapter, we’ll meet a few kids who have taken big initiatives to raise awareness on climate change and make a difference in their own personal actions as well. We hear their stories, and also learn about opportunities we can take in our own lives every day to change the story of climate change for the better.

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 Speaking up for our Earth!

6_2_image01sm.jpgMany kids have put their talents and bright ideas into action to help change our planet for the better. In the book and videos produced by Lynne Cherry and Young Voices for the Planet,  kids share their own stories about what they are doing in their homes, communities, schools, and across the globe to help the environment and to help fight climate change. The aim is to spread the word on what young people (and adults) can do in facing today's big environmental changes. This resource features some great success stories that may inspire you to do something too! 

Take a look at the videos below and learn firsthand how a few kids have found creative ways applied their own interests and talents to fight climate change. To hear more stories from Young Voices for the Planet and see other films featuring kids in action, check out the student links on our Resources page. 


 

6_2_image04sm.jpgSince the age of 12, Alec Loorz has devoted his life to stopping climate change. He started a campaign called iMatter for youth to come together to express their voices and create opportunities to change the world. He travels around the world to encourage young people to take action, and believes that kids today can make all the difference for a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow.


 

6_2_image02sm.jpgOlivia Bouler grew up near the Louisiana coast with a love of nature and especially birds. When the BP oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast in 2010, Olivia was inspired to make and sell paintings of birds to raise funds for cleaning up the mess and for helping the thousands of marine animals that were affected. Olivia continues devoting her time and talent to helping clean up the coastal environment. She also works hard to encourage politicians to change our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in renewable energies. 


 

6_2_image03sm.jpgTwo brothers from Boulder Colorado, Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli, are environmental activists that speak out for the planet and call on future generations to do something now. They have dedicated their talents and voices to raise awareness and bring messages of hope, inspiration and action. Xiuhtezcatl and Itzcuauhtli joined up with other youth from around the world in an organization called Earth Guardians. Together, kids from around the world are standing up to protect the Earth, water, air and atmosphere.

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 Opportunities for change

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One of our biggest challenges in the world today is that the Earth's population of 7 billion people is growing, and along with that, our global need for food, water, and clothing. Each year, there are about 75 million more people on Earth. That is an annual global population growth rate of about 1.1%. The rate has gone down slightly in recent years, but this is still a lot of people!

Think about all the carbon emissions that each person produces every day and how this can add up. Everyone certainly has a right to their daily needs and activities, but unfortunately, we sometimes don’t consider how to meet our needs in ways that also help the planet. For example, if we buy things that we don’t really need or don’t recycle them when we are done using them, then eventually those things end up in the landfill or, worse, in the ocean.

shutterstock_186121226_500.jpgNo matter if you are young or old, there is something that you can do each and every day to make a difference. This can be as small as turning off the light when you leave the room or as big as starting a recycling program at your school. There are many fresh ideas that kids think of to help make our planet a cleaner and greener place to live for everyone.

WHAT'S YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT?

One way to think about the impact you have on the planet is to consider your “carbon footprint”. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide pollution that is released into the air based on the amount of energy you use. This comes from all the activities that you do, day after day and year after year. You use energy for transportation, electricity, and meeting basic needs like cooking and cleaning. You use energy when you turn on the heat in the winter or the air conditioner in the summer. 

It includes all the lights that you may turn on, all the devices that you may charge, and every time you travel somewhere using a vehicle, whether it be in a car, bus, train, taxi, or plane. Air travel is actually one of the biggest sources of emissions we have in transportation. Millions of people travel by plane every day, and this puts a lot of carbon in the air. Take a look at the video below to see plane travel in a typical day.

Altogether, the humans in the world have a pretty big carbon footprint. But just think if each of us did things to make less of an impact each day – that would add up fast and help lower carbon dioxide pollution. Carbon emissions are typically measured in metric tons. It may be kind of hard to imagine what a ton of carbon is, so take a look at this image to get an idea. The goal is to reduce the number of carbon tons emitted across the entire planet.

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01 THE PROBLEM WITH PLASTIC

Plastic is a part of our everyday lives. There are so many items made of plastic around us, from bags and cups to toys and DVDs. Plastic has its name because it is a material that can easily mold into different shapes. The problem is that plastic doesn’t break down like organic, or natural, materials. If plastic isn’t recycled, then it piles up in landfills or becomes waste that ends up littering nature. A plastic bottle can easily end up floating in the ocean, broken down to tiny plastic particles that never go away. Birds, fish, and other marine animals sometimes mistake these plastic particles for food and try to eat them. Marine animals can get tangled up in common six-pack rings from soda cans, with sometimes fatal results. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. According to the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Ocean Commission, an estimated 10 to 20 million tons of plastic find its way into the ocean each year! Plastic makes up 80 to 90% of the litter found in our oceans and on shorelines. That’s a lot of plastic, so be sure to recycle all your plastic waste. Sometimes you can avoid plastic altogether –by bringing reusable grocery bags to the store, for example– which is even better.

02 WHAT'S THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH?

The North Pacific Ocean is home to a huge collection of floating trash. This collection of marine litter is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex. The patch is mostly made of plastics, chemicals, and sludge that are trapped in the currents of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This ocean gyre is a slow-moving clockwise ocean current formed by the Earth’s strong wind patterns and high air pressure created by the rotation of the planet. While the center is calm and stable, the outer circular motion draws in debris and traps it. This is the largest ocean landfill there is, collecting trash from all over the world that’s ended up in the ocean. It’s not just one floating island of trash, but rather is made up of many swirling patches of tiny broken down plastics, called microplastics. Eventually some of the litter sinks into the ocean, but a lot of it damages marine life that eats it or gets tangled in the trashy ocean mess. Make sure your trash doesn’t end up there too!

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  REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT


 

You can reduce your carbon footprint every day through awareness and action. Here are some quick tips for reducing your footprint in daily carbon emitting activities. For even more ideas, take a look at our resources page to find out more ways to make a difference.

  • Unplug!

    The aim is reduce your use of electricity, so be sure to turn off the lights when you leave the room and unplug all the electronic devices that you aren’t using. Another way is to switch out your lightbulbs for more energy efficient ones. Use solar powered devices when you can.

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  • Take a walk!

    If you can go somewhere by walking or riding your bike, that’s a lot better than asking your parents for a ride. If it’s too far to walk, then consider taking the bus or getting a ride with someone else. When you do travel by vehicle, choosing energy efficient and hybrid cars is better for the environment.

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  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

    Reduce the amount of stuff you buy, reuse or recycle what you can. Reduce the amount of paper you use by printing or writing on both sides. Recycling just one bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for three hours. Bring your own bag when you shop to help reduce unnecessary plastic and save our trees.

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  • Go Green!

    Plant trees and gardens. Planting trees helps to keep our air clean. They also provide shade, provide habitat for birds and other animals, and help to keep you cool. Gardening is fun and great for the environment. You can grow fruits and vegetables in your own backyard or community garden plot.

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  • Shop Local!

    If you can’t plant your own garden, be sure to buy local produce. Because there is less transportation involved in getting the produce to your table, this means fewer carbon emissions—reducing your carbon footprint! Visiting local farms or farmers’ markets is fun and a great way to see what is grown in your own area.

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 Using renewable energy sources

6_4_image01.jpgWe have to prepare for changes while also working hard to stop the problem from getting worse. This includes both adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation means that we change our behavior to adjust to the new climate and environment. Mitigation means that we start doing something different to help lessen the impact of climate change. Even if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the temperatures would continue to rise because of all the carbon dioxide already in the air. This certainly doesn’t mean we should give up though, and we can certainly do a lot to help reduce the worst-case scenarios.

One of the biggest actions that we can undertake is to turn to renewable energies when possible for both adaptation and mitigation. This means taking advantage of our natural resources, like sunlight, wind, water, and geothermal resources, to make energy, instead of burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, unlike renewable energies, are finite, meaning that eventually they start to run out and become too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. Renewable energies are ideal because they can be more easily replenished and used daily without a high environmental cost.

Solar power is using the energy from the sun for something we need. This can include all kinds of things, like drying your clothes in the sun, instead of using the dryer. Technologies such as solar cell panels harness sunlight and convert it to electricity. These panels are called photovoltaic panels (photo means light and voltaic means electricity). The largest solar power plant in the world is located in the Mojave Desert. Even the International Space Station has solar panels that use the sun’s energy to generate power. A solar panels is made of silicon electrons that begin moving when the sun hits them and flow through wires that produce electricity.

Wind power uses the air in motion. Wind energy is mostly used to generate electricity, but of course humans have long used the wind for other things too– even recreation, like sailing or flying a kite. You may have seen huge wind turbines spinning. These work kind of like a fan, but in the opposite direction: instead of using electricity to make wind, they use wind to make electricity. As each blade turns, it spins an inner shaft that is connected to a generator that then produces electricity. Take a look at this video to learn more about wind turbines and how they work.

Geothermal energy uses the heat from the Earth. You may have seen a geyser or a hot spring, where the heat from the Earth escapes naturally. Not only is geothermal activity great for enjoying a soak in a hot spring, but it’s also a very clean and sustainable energy resource. Geothermal heat from inside the Earth can be tapped to heat and cool buildings, or to generate electricity. Iceland is a country with a great number of hot springs, and Icelanders use geothermal energy for 25% of their country's total electricity production. During the 20th century, Iceland went from a country dependent on coal for power, to one that uses renewable resources to meet 84% of its energy use. 

Hydropower uses flowing water to make power. Since ancient times, people have taken advantage of water to power watermills and sawmills. Hydropower is a great sustainable resource, because it harnesses the use of the ever replenishing water cycle, and the power of flowing river water. Today, hydropower is used largely to generate electricity. In fact, it is the largest renewable energy source used in the United States and accounts for about 7% of the electricity used. In a hydropower plant, energy is produced from falling or running water, which is channelized and pushes blades in a turbine used to spin a generator that produces electricity.

Some other actions that we can implement to combat climate change include protecting our natural environments, like wildlife reserves, parks and natural ecosystems. Keeping nature healthy does a lot for the environment, including CO2 intake through plant respiration, as we learned about in chapter 3. In addition, many natural ecosystems, such as mangrove trees along the coast, provide buffers against extreme weather events. In other words, they protect the coastline during storms and soak up all the rainfall in big downpours, which helps to prevent big flooding.

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03 WHAT'S THE DAILY WIND CYCLE?

Wind flow patterns and speeds vary across the globe. However, everywhere, on a daily basis, the air above land heats up faster than air over water. As air warms, it expands and rises, and cold air rushes in to take its place. This movement of warm and cool air creates wind. At night, the air cools faster over land than over water, and the winds reverse.

04 WHAT'S THE POWER OF THE SUN?

The Sun is the star that dominates our solar system. Solar energy is the light and heat that reaches Earth from deep inside the Sun. The Sun is 5 billion years old and has produced energy for all that time. Even though it is 93 million miles away, the Earth receives about 174 petawatts of incoming solar radiation. This is about 1,360 watts per square meter of solar energy. Only about 340 watts per square meter of solar energy makes it to the upper atmosphere, but some of that energy is reflected by bright surfaces and clouds (29%), and another part absorbed by atmospheric gases and particles (23%), while the rest (48%) is absorbed at the surface. The land, ocean, and atmosphere all absorb solar energy, which in turn raises their temperature. One hour of incoming solar power is enough energy to power every light, appliance and television on the planet for an entire year! If we all had solar panels, we would never have to burn another lump of coal. 

 

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 Your climate change story

We’ve covered many different aspects of climate change throughout all the chapters. We’ve learned why climate change is happening, what it impacts, what role that we play in the state of our planet today, and what we can do to make a better planet in the future. 

We’ve learned some really good first steps that each of us can do on a daily basis to make a difference, through being aware of our carbon footprint and making smarter choices on food, electricity use, transportation, consumption, and recycling our waste. As we’ve learned, climate change is happening all over our planet, and it impacts so many different aspects of our planet, from wildlife to glaciers to the air we breathe. Each place or local community faces different challenges. There is one more big story to share: YOUR STORY! Just like James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey team, who tell the story of climate change through photographs and videos, you also have the ability to tell your own story.

Think about how climate change might be impacting your own community and ways that you can raise awareness about what can be done. Share success stories with others on what is already being done to adapt to or mitigate the impacts of climate change. There are many different ways to tell the story of climate change, so be creative and share your own perspective of it! Just like the kids you met earlier in this chapter, you can find ways to choose a meaningful climate change topic that interests you and inspires you to do something different. 

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  WHAT TO DO?


There are many creative ways to tell your own story of climate change from writing or drawing to photography or film, or even singing! Try to combine your own talents and passions to help improve the environment. Even a scientist has to be creative in what she or he chooses to study and how – like making an underwater nursery to restore coral reefs, climbing to the top of a glacier to core the ice, or inventing a new technology to harness the Sun’s energy.

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Whatever you’re interested in, you can find a way to use your talents to be creative and inspirational in helping make our planet healthy and sustainable.

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 Conclusion

In this final chapter, we learned how each of us can do something to help keep our planet healthy and find ways to combat climate change in our daily actions. There are kids all over the world who can come together to share fresh ideas on climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation. Each of us has a unique perspective and talents to share. Get creative and share your own climate change story in a local newspaper, school, community gathering, gallery or museum, or online blog.

The world we share is a beautiful place, and we must be aware of our actions and serve as stewards of nature to keep our planet healthy, keep our water and air clean, and make certain there are abundant natural resources for future generations.

Combating climate change is a lifelong adventure, and together we can make it an exciting journey to help make the Earth a better place.

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 Chasing Ice, Chasing Your Dream

When James Balog first started the Extreme Ice Survey, there were many unknowns. He didn’t know where to deploy the cameras, whether his cameras would withstand the brutal weather, if they would capture changes in the glaciers, or – if they did – whether people would even care.

James had to put all these questions aside and have faith in his idea of capturing the effects of climate change with his photographs. 

As a result of following his heart, so much has changed in a matter of just a few years. There have been as many as 43 cameras in the field at once – at Mount Everest and in Greenland, in Iceland and Canada and Alaska. The cameras, and a very hardworking team, from the field to the office, as well as hundreds of supporters from all around the world, have captured the most eye-popping photographic evidence of climate change ever produced.

Along with the photographs, the documentary film Chasing Ice has played an essential role in revealing the story of climate change far and wide. The images have been viewed at the White House, the United Nations, the British House of Commons, and universities and schools around the world. The global response has exceeded James’ wildest dreams.

Throughout this resource, you’ve had an inside look at some of the adventures that James and his EIS team have experienced. We hope you will share these exciting stories and the film with others at your school, home and community. Together, we can spread the word that climate change is real, that it's happening right before our eyes, and that we can each do something about it – right now!

Just like James, follow your heart and dream big. You possess a unique voice and special talents. Do something inspiring, beautiful and important to help solve the problem of climate change and maintain a healthy planet for future generations of young people to enjoy!

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