Dear Decaturish – An Earth Day letter from Decatur High School students
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Let’s do our part this Earth Day! Please sign the petition at decatur100.com asking Decatur to commit to the just and equitable transition to 100% clean and renewable energy as part of the Sierra Club Ready for 100 distributed campaign. Over 1,500 Decatur middle and high school students have signed our own petition asking the city of Decatur to commit to 100% renewable energy, but we can’t do this alone. It is imperative that city commissioners hear from adults as well.
In the midst of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, it is easy to forget about the other global crisis that is plaguing our planet. Climate change may seem far-off and irrelevant in the shadow of the coronavirus, but in many ways, the parallels that can be drawn between these two crises should make us more concerned than ever. Both require immediate action and long-term strategic planning; both need to be guided by science and focused on protecting the most vulnerable among us, and both require the political will to make fundamental changes in the face of an existential crisis. So while it is vital that we continue to pour our efforts into combating the coronavirus pandemic, we must also realize the urgency of climate action.
We are surrounded by the news of devastating wildfires in Australia, calamitous droughts in India, and the occurrence of more frequent flooding and more violent hurricanes right here in the US. In 2018, based on the best available scientific evidence, the UN climate report stated that, by 2030, we must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels in route to a carbon-neutral world by 2050. If we don’t meet these imperative deadlines, we will face dire consequences including the triggering of unpredictable and uncontrollable feedback loops which will further speed warming. Even here in Decatur, in the absence of bold climate action, we are predicted to experience 26 days with a heat index of over 105º F every year by mid-century and 57 days by late-century. For comparison, Decatur has historically (from 1971-2000) only experienced one such day per year. This is especially concerning because, according to NOAA and the CDC, extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the US.
It is easy to feel like the fate of the Earth is sealed in the face of these depressing facts and decades of government inaction. However, there is reason to hope. Right now, Decatur has a once in a decade opportunity to join the fight against climate change. This petition will be presented to the Decatur Strategic Planners in hopes of incorporating a commitment to 100% clean and renewable energy into the Decatur 2020 strategic plan, which will serve as the blueprint for all major decisions in Decatur over the next ten years.
Over 150 cities in the U.S. (representing roughly 30% of the population) have already made commitments to transition to 100% clean and renewable energy as part of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 distributed campaign. These commitments, along with massive worldwide demonstrations, are leading politicians on both sides of the aisle to acknowledge the climate crisis and discuss taking action. By joining this movement, Decatur can help to build the grassroots momentum and push leaders from talk to action.
There are already five cities in Georgia (Atlanta, Clarkston, Athens, Savannah and Augusta) that have committed to transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy. It is time for Decatur to stop trailing behind and become a leader in our state by acting now. Each additional city that makes the commitment increases our leverage with utility companies and our state representatives. We can use this influence to obtain funding for climate projects, advocate for the sourcing of clean energy, and push for effective climate legislation. Unfortunately, if we are not successful, it will be nearly impossible for Decatur to make this commitment and seriously address climate change until 2030, which might be too late. We have to act now.
To a certain degree, the climate crisis mirrors many aspects of the current COVID19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic. These similarities allow us to take many of the lessons that we have learned (and are continuing to learn) from the coronavirus and apply them to climate change. The coronavirus has taught us the vital importance of preparation, demonstrated the difference that taking swift and dramatic action can make, and shown us the devastation that can come from doing too little, too late. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from this crisis, though, is that the coronavirus, like climate change, requires a united response at global, national, local, and even individual levels. From nation-wide stay-at-home orders in countries like Italy to citizens making masks for local hospitals right here in Decatur, this pandemic has shown us that change is possible, and that action can save lives.
What we, as citizens of the earth, do in this coming decade will determine the fate of the planet. We can sit by the side and watch the degradation of our home, or we can take action to save it. As youth, we will not be old enough to vote and be in positions of power in time to make a difference. Our generation and all of those to come are counting on you. Please don’t let us down.
Lily Mae Barcik
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