Of the many “minor” holidays we celebrate each year, I have always had a soft spot for Earth Day. I view it as a yearly reminder to celebrate the incredible gift of creation and to reflect on my role as a steward of that creation. In that spirit, our middle and high school youth groups decided to spend the month of April learning to become better stewards of our planet by focusing on issues related to climate change and sustainability. For me personally, climate change has always been a daunting topic to address--how do you even begin to approach a problem so massive, so urgent, and with such potentially devastating consequences for humanity and for all of creation? And furthermore, how do you approach this topic with young people who have inherited a planet on the brink of devastation and who have grown up acutely aware of the reality that they will likely be the ones forced to solve this problem that was not of their making?
Rather than face the behemoth of discussing climate change as a whole, we opted to begin by talking about simple ways that we as individuals can live more intentional and sustainable lives. Our youth offered ideas ranging from the familiar (like using less water and recycling whenever possible) to the creative (such as researching microorganisms that could potentially digest plastic or other materials) to the… slightly out of the box (including an impressively detailed plan involving windmills, space lasers, and colonizing the Moon--the creativity of middle schoolers truly knows no bounds!). To put our ideas about sustainable living into practice, we collected old t-shirts that were destined for the landfill and converted them into reusable shopping bags that could replace single-use plastic bags. As we emphasized throughout our month of exploring climate change and sustainability, even the smallest efforts to be more intentional and sustainable in our daily lives can add up to big changes.
Ultimately, solving a problem as immense and multifaceted as climate change will require a lot more than making reusable bags out of old t-shirts. It will require a lot more than recycling, using less water and electricity, and even creating space lasers and Moon colonies. In the end, our efforts to live more sustainably as individuals can only work if we also collectively put pressure on the governments and corporations who truly have the power to help reverse the effects of climate change on a global scale. But if there is one thing I took away from this month’s discussions with our middle and high school students, it is that their generation possesses everything we need in the fight against climate change: an awareness of the issues we face and the scope of the problem, an endless amount of creativity and unique ideas, and perhaps most importantly, a genuine optimism and belief that this problem, immense though it may be, is not insurmountable. I have no doubt that our youth are ready to fight for the health and longevity of their planet, and I can only hope that the rest of us are prepared to follow their lead.
Alli Stubbs is our interim Director of Christian Formation for Youth. Read more
Image of earth from space: By NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans. Link 1; (image link); see also. Public Domain, Wikimedia Link