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How To Really Save The Turtles

We need to do more for climate change.

Earlier this school year, millions of students across the world walked out united to raise awareness for the ever-increasing climate crisis. On Sept. 20, my school, among thousands, stood beside teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and vowed to create a more environmentally aware world. But what changed? Where are these students now? Has the world suddenly stopped polluting itself or have students forgotten? It seems as though neither is true, but our student movement remains silent. 

Yes, we raised awareness, but as the crisis becomes more dire, so must our actions. Our fight against the climate crisis won’t be won simply with walkouts. They help, but as glaciers continue to shrink and the monstrous wildfire in Australia rages, it’s become apparent that they certainly won’t win us the war. So, what do we do now? 

First and foremost, we’ve all heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” more times than we can recall, but how many of us have taken it to heart and incorporated it in our lives? Perhaps, during the walkout, you had your Hydroflask, a metal straw and told your fellow protesters to “save the turtles,” but how did you get to school that morning? What about the car you drove to get to school? Studies show that transportation alone contributes 14 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions of the economic sector. It’s an inconceivable amount, and that’s only one aspect of our lives. What about the phone you just used to post about what a great advocate you are for our world? Go ahead and another 25 percent from electricity. Feel the change yet? Probably not. 

So maybe you’ll start recycling. Finally, after decades of informational campaigns’ persistence, you will join the Americans who have put those blue bins to good use. Back to saving the turtles, right? If only it were that simple. What most don’t realize is that recycling is an extremely complicated process that has positive and negative effects on our planet. For the past three decades, United States citizens simply threw their cans in the blue bin and carried on with their day, unaware and careless about its next stop in China. For thirty years American recyclables were shipped to China, sold and reincarnated. However, with a new Chinese policy announced in 2017, Operation National Sword, we Americans find ourselves at a loss. China, once the world’s primary dumping ground has stopped accepting our trash. So, what’s next?

The truth is we don’t know. Scientists may predict the temperature will rise by 0.2 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, but the four to eight inches sea level rise during the 20th century is undeniable. In 1997, Al Gore, former Vice President, signed the first climate change policy addressed to the United States government and today, the struggle remains. The debate over climate change is polarizing, but regardless of our political stances, the facts of the past are true. Do we really want to find out if our future predictions are too? Through social media and student walkouts, we have given ourselves a unique voice to broadcast and embody the ideals necessary to fix the world. Tikkun Olam is a core value in Judaism, so why is everyone, especially Jewish students, suddenly so quiet, and why don’t we practice what we claim to preach?

Ora Gutfreund is a sophomore at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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