A Message to Students: Climate Change and the Perseverance of Hope

To be young, at any point, in any time, is to harbor uncertainty while being asked to find certitude within yourself. 

You are 18 and asked to choose a future for yourself, asked to know your passions, your aspirations, your timeline. Yet, in your 18 years of living, the sea levels have risen more than 2.5 inches–and it’s not slowing down. 

The climate has shifted drastically within our lifetime. The past decade has presented a 10% increase in fossil fuel emissions, a temperature increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit and a 13% decrease in sea ice mass. 

We are surrounded by climate clocks; counting down to a future of irreversible damage to our Earth. The sense of impending doom and individual culpability often, understandably, is debilitating.

How do you draw a timeline of your life when the very timeline of the place in which you would spend it is deteriorating? How do you find personal goals when the only goal you really want to achieve is a healthy planet? 

How do you live when the Earth around you is dying?

Amidst the ambivalence of our generation’s future, it makes sense that we would shy away from planning for our own future. I would not dare to advise against the surrendering of future planning. The notion that living for the present has never been as fruitful as it is now, at the hands of our changing climate, is grievously beautiful in its own sense.

Many would argue that the very act of attending college in the current biosphere is a waste of time, and maybe it is. But, I think the determination to build your own future while facing the imminent possibility that we may not have a home for one–is an act of resistance. An act of irreconcilable hope and conviction. 

There is an incredibly real possibility that this is a waste of time. All of it. Every class. Every internship. Every discussion post and career development course. The likelihood that every Seattle University student is throwing away valuable years of their life on a degree that won’t be useful and that our Earth will consume itself far before we may reap the benefits of our time spent here is not an easily disputed possibility. 

I will venture to say, however, that planning for your future is not useless. At least, not as you may think. 

The insurmountable pressure placed on the shoulders of our generation is enough to render us all destitute. The ever-looming presence of Earthly destruction and corporate-funded desolation is a wicked brand of poison that holds the ability to burn us all.

And yet, here you are: staying up late to study for midterms and color-coding your calendar trying to find enough space to see your friends. Exploring the limitations of your ambition and the product of your inquisitions. 

The stupid, laborious ways in which we spend our time is not a submission to carelessness, but a victory over fear. There is often a single image of productiveness while fighting the climate crisis: one who partakes in loud demonstrations of unsustainable practices and systemic recklessness. We should all strive to join in that image of productiveness, but we should also expand what it means to protest.

It takes immeasurable hope to look at the state of the world and choose to build a life within it anyway. The tedium of academia may not seem like a platform for bravery to arise, but there is audaciousness in every failed assignment and disjointed schedule. 

Our generation is burdened with the weight of our ancestors’ carelessness and lack of education, and this requires us to be at the forefront of salvaging the scraps they have left behind. Big, ostentatious movements are irrevocably central to doing this, but the small ways in which we choose to keep living are markedly imperative in their own sense. 

Suffice to say, I think being here, at Seattle U, and putting the time into self development is a form of protest within itself. Maybe it’s not much, but it’s something.