How Students Can Help Fight Climate Change

Several teachers at Central Kitsap High School share how students can help fight climate change, and why everyone should care.


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A group protesting climate change

by Sophia DeBon, Reporter

Climate change has become more and more evident as of late. Weather events such as the flooding in Vancouver this month, and the heatwave last summer, provide a glimpse of what the future will look like if climate change is not slowed. 

Many students feel as though there is nothing they can do that will really help fight climate change; however, students have more power than they think when it comes to helping the planet, voicing their opinions, and decreasing their footprint.

According to Bill Wilson, a science teacher at Central Kitsap High School (CKHS), one of the most important things someone can do to decrease their footprint is to decrease the amount of meat they eat. 

“It’s hard, but that’s the number one thing to do if you want to decrease your ecological footprint. At least cut back. Our family. . .every week, we have one night where we don’t eat meat. So that’s a start for us,” said Wilson.

Wilson added that voters and future voters all have the power to make a big difference with their vote. 

“The most important thing students can do is be informed voters. So find people who support legislation to limit climate change, and vote,” said Wilson

Kallie Szczepanski, a social studies teacher at CKHS, talked about how students who cannot yet vote can make change.

“I think one of the most effective things that students can do is to use your voice- even though you may not be voters yet- to put pressure on political leaders,” said Szczepanski. “Literally calling their offices and telling them that you’re a young person and you expect to be alive for decades more, and would you please do something about this specific issue, and be as specific as you can when you call. So if there is a bill up in the house or in front of senate that would help with climate change, cite the bill and tell them you’re interested in that”

Szczepanski went on to talk about the power of strikes in bringing attention to climate change.

“Another thing that I think would be quite effective is mass strikes,” said Szczepanski. “So we saw that even just Greta Thunberg by herself, by striking and refusing to go into the school building, brought a lot of attention to climate change. And I think that students should be emulating her tactics that seemed to be effective. So just really hard headed, obstinate concern about climate change”

Alternative sources of energy and transportation are another good way to help mitigate climate change.

“I think we need to move towards electric cars and get away from burning fossil fuels,” said Paul Birkenfeld, a science teacher at CKHS. “I think the younger generation is already moving towards electric cars. And then, of course, having Teslas doesn’t hurt as far as getting kids to move towards cool cars like Teslas. But I think the big thing is just moving towards using alternative energies.”

Some people may not know why they should care about climate change, or do not think it is as important as it is, as they don’t see how it’s affecting them. 

“We’re already beginning to see why we should care,” said Wilson. “Most people who live in the pacific northwest remember the really smoky summers, and everybody remembers the heatwave last summer. . . Climate change as it unfolds is going to directly affect us here in the pacific northwest a lot.”

Birkenfeld gave his take on climate change and the need for mitigation, citing the effect climate change will have on long term weather patterns

“When I think of climate change, I think of the long term ramifications of what we’re doing as humans on earth to impact long term weather patterns,” said Birkenfeld. “We should care because it’s going to impact every facet of life on earth, whether its average temperatures, or daily temperatures, or the temperature of our summers. . .I think that climate change will become more and more evident, and more and more significant if we don’t do anything to mitigate what’s going on.”

Recent weather events disrupting traffic and trade in large cities is one of many negative effects of climate change that will be felt by the U.S. in years to come.

“People should care about climate change because it is already drastically impacting weather patterns around the world,” said Szczepanski. “And that leads to things like the entire city of vancouver being cut off from all roads this last month because of torrential rains and flooding.”

All in all, there are many ways that students can effectively help mitigate climate change; whether that be through voting, contacting government officials, striking, petitioning, or by reducing their intake of animal products, students have the power to voice their opinions and pressure the government to make change.

Climate change is affecting everyone, and its effects will only become more extreme. It is important that everyone do what they can to help mitigate the effects of climate change, for their sake and for the sake of future generations.