Today began with our much-anticipated meeting with John Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor, at the U.S. Embassy. I let him know that my students are worried about climate change, and that they are doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint – biking, taking the metro, and growing gardens – but as long as they live in the U.S., they have large footprint. I told him that my students are learning the chemistry of burning coal and the science behind hydrogen-powered cars. I let him know that they are hopeful that the agreement made at COP21 will make a difference in moving us away from carbon fuels and toward renewables.
Dr. Holdren said that we need today’s youth to build their climate literacy so that they can take leadership roles in the future and, just as importantly, to build a foundation of political will for climate action in our country. In other words, we need a voting public that really understands climate change and wants to see a change in our energy policies. We have the evidence of the impacts from climate change. We are seeing some of the most powerful storms on record, the Arctic is melting, wildfires burned 31 million acres in the northern hemisphere this summer, and even the tundra is burning. If most of our citizens supported a carbon tax, we could use that revenue to reduce our deficit or contribute to the Green Climate Fund to help with climate adaptation.
After the meeting with Dr. Holdren, I went to listen to Bill McKibben and others speak about the need for all of us to take an active role. As he said, “When we organize, we win.” Following that, a panel discussed the dangers of fracking and the ways that organizers had stopped it is states such as New York. If you want more information on the health risks associated with fracking, you can find resources at: http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/.
There was a rally to stop fracking around the world outside COP21. I interviewed a rancher from Wyoming, John Fenton, who said he lives near a fracking site around Wind River, and his water is so bad he cannot drink it because of the sodium, glycols, and benzene chemicals in it. He and others have to be careful of the methane in the water when they shower. You can read more about the impacts of fracking in the U.S. at: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-8-mountains-and-plains.
Today was a call for action day as the negotiations continue. I am letting others know our concerns in Minnesota, and I am gathering information to relay others’ concerns back to my students. It was said today that “True power lies in the individual.”