The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Humans have only been around for roughly 200,000 years—a tiny fraction of the Earth’s existence—yet we’re destroying its natural beauty and resources day by day as “growth” becomes king. The major environmental problems in the world today come from greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming, and our failure to protect nature.
Global warming is the current increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, water and surface. Human activities produce greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere and cause many of the problems our planet faces today. More than just melting ice, this changes climate patterns throughout the world. For example, animals are migrating from the equator toward the poles in order to find more comfortable living conditions. However, a lot of animals may go extinct as they are not able to compete in the new conditions.
The average global temperature has increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. The worst thing is that increased dryness and volatility serve as natural fuels for wildfires. Right now, for example, the Amazon rainforest is ablaze, and has been burning at an alarming rate for more than a month. If these types of disasters keep occurring, our planet will burn out. Global warming is a pressing issue that has not been dealt with yet.
Pollution is also an issue that needs to be dealt with. Our rivers and oceans are being treated as garbage cans for human waste. Littering is often a criminal offense, punishable by a fine. The good news is that this is an easier problem to address than global warming: Just pick up after yourself! Right now there is a giant island of trash—mostly plastic—floating in the Pacific Ocean. This is a completely preventable situation, but it is out of control.
What my generation can do to address these issues is to actively participate in more recycling and reuse of materials. Instead of creating litter, use things that can be recycled or, better yet, reused. Instead of single-use packaging and fast-food containers, we should be demanding things made out of previously used items, or bringing our own reusable mugs to local establishments. Did you know that it takes 713 gallons of water to manufacture one T-shirt? Countless tons of tees end up in landfills each year. This is just a small example of waste that can be addressed by recycling and reuse. Instead of buying new clothes, we should shop at thrift stores and recycle clothes and household items.
I have a friend who went even further with this way of living. Alex Eaves built his whole house out of recycled and reused materials. He lives in an old U-Haul box truck that has been upcycled into a really nice camper home. He travels the country talking about re-use and screening his documentary film, Reuse! Because You Can’t Recycle the Planet. It’s a really great message for teens and young adults who are concerned about the planet that we share.
If teens today can focus on the environmental message that Stetson Kennedy cared so much about, if we can work together to save our Mother Earth by reducing greenhouse gases and reusing the planet’s resources instead of wasting them, we will be able to save this planet not only for us, but for those who come after us.
Robbins is a 10th grader in St. Johns County. She is the winner of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation’s Earth Kinship Essay Contest. Celebrate Kennedy’s 103rd birthday 2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 5 at Beluthahatchee Park, 1523 S.R. 13, Fruit Cove, stetsonkennedy.com, free.