How do we put this politely: We’re F**K*d … or pretty close.
Young people will probably bear the worst brunt of climate change. That’s on top of all the shenanigans happening right now: Guns and mass shootings, the disappearing rights of girls and women to make decisions over their own bodies, Russia invading Ukraine and the “forever” war, skyrocketing gas prices, inflation, racial injustices, Covid. The list goes on.
But, fine, let’s get to the issues and how we fight back. (Yeah, we won’t win this one on TikTok alone!)
Young People vs. Climate Change
Young people (Under 35) make up more than 50% of the world’s population. The youth, between 15 – 25, make up more than 16 percent of the population.
In fact, in some developing countries, young people make up more than 75 percent of the population. Here’s a nice breakdown of what the global population currently looks like.
It’s no secret that the youth play a vital role in the fight against climate change. Time and time again, we’ve seen young people come together to demand action on this pressing issue. In fact, some of the most vocal activists today are teenagers and even children.
And it’s easy to see why climate change is such an important issue. After all, we’re the ones who will have to live with the consequences of the older generation’s actions today.
We’re the ones who stand to lose the most if we don’t make changes now. As a result, we must get involved in the fight against climate change. Only by working together can we hope to create a better future for all.
Top 5 Youth Environmental Issues
From climate change to plastic pollution, there are many pressing issues we must address. Here are some of the most pressing concerns:
Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world today. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Earth’s average temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times.
This may not sound like much, but it has already significantly impacted our planet.
The Arctic is melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are becoming more common. And this is just the beginning—the IPCC predicts that if we don’t take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth’s average temperature could increase by as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
This is a huge problem for today’s youth, who will bear the brunt of climate change in the coming years. They will have to contend with more extreme weather, less food and water security, and increased displacement due to sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change.
And even if we do take action to reduce emissions, young people will still face an uphill battle—the damage that has already been done by climate change will take generations to undo.
According to the UN, climate change could force as many as 700 million people into poverty by 2030. And by 2050, it is estimated that there could be 150 million climate refugees.
The youth will also have to deal with the mental health impacts of climate change. A recent study found that nearly half of young people aged 18-24 reported feeling anxious about the state of the environment. With so much at stake, we must act now to address climate change. Otherwise, the youth will pay a heavy price for inaction.
Waste plastic is an eyesore. Period. And yet, walk in most cities around the world, and it’s just there, flying with the wind, washed up on beaches, or eerily floating in the ocean.
Did you know there is a garbage patch in the pacific measuring a whopping 1.6 million square kilometers? To put that in perspective, imagine 2 Texas(es) or 3 France(s) full of garbage, and most of it is plastic, just floating around.
Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to young people and the environment. Every year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, harming marine life and polluting the water.
This pollution also affects the food chain, as fish and other animals can ingest tiny pieces of plastic. Studies have shown that exposure to plastic pollution can cause various health problems in humans, including reproductive issues, developmental problems, and cancer.
What’s more, plastic pollution is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. The impact of all this pollution is disproportionately felt by young people, who will inherit a damaged environment if no action is taken to reduce plastic pollution.
There are many ways to do this, from reducing our reliance on single-use plastics to increasing recycling and investing in cleaner packaging technologies, etc.
This one will be super painful for a whole lot of young people. Many are already grappling with water shortages. Droughts are slowly becoming a fixture of our existence. You only need to look to the West Coast to see how water shortages are affecting livelihoods and upending lives.
Droughts are becoming more common and intense due to climate change, leading to water shortages that disproportionately affect young people. One issue is that less water is available for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. This can lead to dehydration and even death in extreme cases.
In many parts of the world, women and young girls are responsible for collecting water for their families, which can mean walking long distances and spending hours each day waiting in line. This often means that they miss school or are unable to focus when they are there.
In addition, lack of access to clean water can lead to dehydration and waterborne illnesses, both of which are more prevalent among children.
Water shortages also lead to hunger as crops fail without enough water. This impacts people’s livelihoods and can cause widespread famine.
Additionally, droughts can cause wildfires, e.g., in California, as dry conditions make it easier for fires to start and spread. This puts people’s homes and lives at risk. Finally, droughts can lead to displacement as people are forced to leave their homes in search of water.
The UN estimates that almost two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed regions by 2025. This will likely have a devastating impact on young people, who will bear the brunt of the consequences. To address this issue, we must take action to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure that everyone has access to clean water.
Habitat Destruction and Biodiversity Loss
Habitat destruction is one of the greatest threats to the environment and a grave threat to young people. Every year, millions of acres of forest are lost to deforestation, which profoundly impacts the environment.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area of forest the size of 30 football fields is lost every minute.
Forests are critical in regulating the climate and providing habitat for animals and plants.
When we destroy them, it can cause flooding, wildfires, and soil erosion. It can also lead to the extinction of plant and animal species. Habitat loss is expected to exacerbate in the coming years due to population growth and the demand for timber and farmland.
This will have a devastating impact on the environment and will put even more pressure on already endangered species. As forests disappear, so does critical habitat for many species of plants and animals.
You may be wondering, why the f would I care about some elephants or hyenas roaming somewhere in the savannahs of beautiful Africa?
There are many reasons why you should care about wild animals.
For one, they play a critical role in ecosystems and help keep them in balance. They are a source of beauty and enjoyment, and their presence can add significantly to the quality of life. Furthermore, wild animals are often seen as symbols of national pride or cultural identity.
But, even barring that. Suppose the roles were reversed. Would you want or enjoy being constantly hunted and gutted (sometimes for sheer pleasure)? Would you like your home burned down or destroyed?
(What gives you way more living rights than them? Technically, we all “found” ourselves here on this beautiful blue planet. You didn’t have a say in it, and neither did they.)
The point is: Animals are living creatures that deserve our compassion and protection.
Air pollution is a global problem that disproportionately affects young people. A WHO report found that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds safe levels.
This is particularly harmful to young people as they are still developing, and their bodies are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Studies have linked air pollution to various health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, heart disease, and cancer.
In fact, the WHO estimates that air pollution is responsible for 7 million premature deaths each year. Given the scale of the problem, it’s clear that we need to do more to protect young people from air pollution.
One way to do this is to raise awareness of the issue and encourage young people to take action to reduce emissions.
How can we do this?
- Reduce fossil fuel use: Burning fossil fuels releases harmful pollutants into the air. Thus, reducing our use can make a big difference. Try walking or biking instead of driving, carpooling whenever possible, and taking public transportation when possible.
- Conserve energy: Saving energy reduces emissions from power plants. Turn off lights and other appliances when not used, and ensure your crib is well insulated to reduce heating and cooling needs.
- Recycle and compost: Recycling and composting help reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills, releasing methane – a potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere.
These are just some of the top environmental issues facing young people today. We must take action on them before it’s too late.