Today Barack Obama was sworn into the office of president of the United States for the second time, and he laid out an ambitious plan for what he plans to accomplish in the next four years. Unlike his first inaugural address, which focused largely upon the financial crisis that was then unfolding, this time he addressed a range of issues, from gun control to gay rights. Notably, President Obama spoke of climate change, and our collective obligation to address this pressing issue, not just for ourselves, but for those that will inhabit this planet in the future. He stressed that we must act now, and that, “failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and this summer’s wildfires, and the recent report that 2012 was the hottest year on record by a landslide, it seems obvious that the leader of our nation would cite climate change as a top priority for his second term. One might even argue climate change ought to be relatively uncontroversial issue in Washington, since its effects have been so readily apparent in recent years. In spite of the wealth of tangible evidence we have of the effects of greenhouse gases, though, there are still a significant number of lawmakers who deny the existence of climate change, or at least the role humans play in this phenomenon. Some politicians who do acknowledge that climate change is real, and is linked to human behavior, still refuse to put any environmental regulations in place that could potentially “hurt business.” These two issues aside, with the current climate of never ending gridlock in Congress, it seems unlikely any meaningful legislation will be passed anytime soon.
Our country has an incredible history of pushing through sweeping legislative changes to correct for wrongs of the past, like the amendment for women’s suffrage and the civil right’s act. If the vast majority of Americans felt climate change to be a pressing, critical issue, politicians would eventually have to give in to pressure from their constituents, and propose substantive legislation. The problem is, we just aren’t there yet. Not enough adults feel that climate change is an issue that effects them personally. That’s why we need to educate the next generation of policy makers and problem solvers about the importance of this issue, and to convince them that environmental sustainability is possible if we all collectively make a commitment to change our behavior for the future of our planet. Sustainable Summer believes that high school students have the intelligence and maturity to understand the gravity of this issue, and the ambition and fearlessness to do what it takes to enact real change. We want to educate the teenagers about climate change and environmental sustainability, so they, perhaps, will accomplish in the future what we adults have so far failed to do in the present.