As October comes to an end, the spookiest time of the year seems to be over and the holidays are just around the corner. Like every year, as I walk into stores, Halloween themed products are taken down and holiday themed decorations are replaced. Although Halloween is over, we continue to live in the spookiest time of all, with the issue of climate change only getting worse. 

The Global Climate Strike happened across the globe on Friday, September 27, 2019. I attended the strike that happened in Toronto, Canada. More than 15,000 people, both young and old, marched through the busy streets of downtown Toronto. As I was marching, I witnessed that many children, younger than I am—under the age of 20—had so much passion behind why they were participating in this march. They simply want to save the planet that is dying at a rapid rate. 

All around the world, we can see our actions towards the planet reflecting back onto us, like the Amazon’s insane wildfires. We are the cause of these negative changes and need to be the ones to stand accountable and to right our wrongs for our future. I remember watching a video of a scuba diver who swam through plastic instead of swimming with fish and sea animals. What surprised me even more was that it was in our very own Great Lakes of Canada. Imagine how dirty the waters have to be for this to occur—it is practically a landfill under the water. Many, like the University of Toronto, have taken the initiative to help raise awareness by encouraging others and themselves to learn more about climate change through the UofT Trash Team, a group of volunteers who collected trash from the Don River in Toronto and found out how our trash makes its way there. This research has grown to now include organizing city cleanups allowing anyone to join them. 

Looking at the pictures of all those bags filled with plastic makes it hard for me to believe how much plastic we use every single day and the negative impact it has on our planet, and ultimately ourselves. When I take a look around my room, I realize it starts here, right where I am sitting right now. The amount of plastic that surrounds us makes it seem like we are practically swimming in it, and the truth is, the planet is nearing that situation, if not already there. 

We need to understand the implications of our actions and change our ways. In an article published by National Geographic, the authors list seven things people don’t know about plastic and recycling, showing that plastics are actually less efficient and much more damaging than we think. Not all plastics are recyclable, such as coffee cups, and only clean plastics can be recycled. Plastic actually loses its quality as it is recycled and that is why it is best to use glass or metal because they are infinitely recyclable and do not harm the earth. Plastics play a huge part in climate change and we need to accept this and stop using them before we are too late. 

Aside from the visual effect we see with plastic polluting the bodies of water that cover the Earth, there are other alarming issues, like the rising sea levels. Personally, it is hard to understand this concept, because we don’t see this issue in our day to day lives while living in Toronto, but we do experience the side effects like increasing amounts of rainfall. All in all, these are all the side effects of a bigger thing—global warming. We were hit with this issue ages ago, and though we had many years to fix it, the rate of global warming continues to rapidly increase. I came across this news release that was published back in April 2018 by the Government of Canada on how the climate is warming up twice as fast as the global average. These statistics and facts are all there and have been presented time after time to us, but we do nothing but go back to the same habits that caused such harm to the environment and to ourselves. This isn’t even the worst of it. The results of our actions will only get scarier the more we continue to damage Earth. 

We need to stop talking about climate change and start acting on it! Our actions really do speak louder than words and this climate strike was just the first of it. The whole world came together on this day to fight to save our planet. Everyone was united, regardless of background or age, and that is the only way we can save our planet. This is exactly what Greta Thunberg believes and shows us. She is truly an inspiration and a true example of this generation, the generation of action. Only 16 years old, Greta led a worldwide youth climate strike and moved so many people to get up and do something!

Autumn Peltier is an inspiration as well. She is a teenage Indigenous water activist from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She became aware of the issue and started to take action at the age of 8 when she came across the boil-advisory in the Anishinaabe community. Fast forward to being 16 years old, she is currently nominated for the 2019 International Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation, and also spoke to Prime Minister Trudeau at the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden in 2015 about his “broken promises.” She mentions that her vision is for everyone to have access to clean water:

“I basically want to tell them about the importance of water from a cultural, spiritual level, and then try to tell them that it’s time for action.”

Every single one of us in the world can make a difference. I realize that this is something we always hear but always question how. Many of us often assume that “someone else will do it”, or belittle what contributions we could make because “we’re only teenagers”. We need to stop waiting for others to stand up for something that each and every single one of us can stand up for. Investing our time is all we need to do. Volunteering to clean up our environment, recycling properly, buying reusable water bottles, grocery bags and even thermoses—these are all small actions we can take in our day-to-day lives. If we decrease the amount of plastic waste we produce, companies will stop manufacturing these plastic goods. If the consumers don’t consume it, the producers won’t produce it.

For me, climate change has always been a very important topic. I have reduced the amount of plastic I use by investing in reusable bottles, thermoses, and fabric bags instead of using plastic ones. As a youth myself, I want to make sure there is a future for my children and grandchildren on this planet. As a human being, it is my duty to take care of this Earth and stand up for it, because it is living, just like the rest of us.

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