The Time Is Now To Save Our Planet

Harriton Students Advocate for Climate Action At The Lower Merion Environmental Advisory Committee

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The Time Is Now To Save Our Planet

Enya Xiang, Opinions Editor

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On January 16th, Harriton students spoke to the Lower Merion Environmental Advisory Committee at the Township Building, calling for local action to address climate change.

Students from Welsh Valley, Lower Merion, and Harriton spoke at the presentation hosted by Sierra Club. The national environmental organization is pushing for their Ready For 100% Renewable Energy campaign, urging cities and towns to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The resolution called for four demanding changes:

  1. Transition to clean and renewable community-wide electricity by 2035 or earlier
  2. Transition Township fleet to 100 percent Renewables by 2040 or earlier
  3. Transition to clean and renewable community-wide energy (heating and transportation) by 2050 or earlier
  4. Transition in a way that achieves transparency, equity, affordability, and access to all members of the community.

Below are the speeches given by Harriton students Beau Greisiger and myself.

Beau Greisiger, Harriton Junior

The goal of 100 percent clean renewable energy in Lower Merion is a very worthy one for our community. It is so important because as a wealthy community our lifestyle, for even the most green minded of us, generates a disproportionately large carbon footprint. As a community, we must consider the impact of our lifestyle choices, like air flights, luxury fossil fuel cars, vacation homes, etc. So, Ready For 100 is an opportunity to redefine wealth in our society, such that living a “good life” is possible without high greenhouse gas emissions. 

Our socioeconomic status also gives us access to political clout to make broad environmental change such as funding climate research and demanding divestment from fossil fuels. HOWEVER, we have to engage more than just the highly educated elite. This is why I founded the Urban Raingarden Stewardship in Philadelphia, to bring environmental literacy to a generation of inner city students. 

It is poor communities that are often the most affected by climate change; yet, they generate the smallest carbon footprint. Through hands-on outdoor learning in school yard rain gardens, we are engaging a generation of inner city kids to be fully immersed in sustainability and climate activism while taking responsibility for their urban green spaces all over Philadelphia. Understanding the role of equity and social justice in the climate crisis will allow our efforts to be inclusive and empowering well beyond our eco-elite circle.

Enya Xiang, Junior

When I was a child and still sat in the backseat of the car, I thought I knew for certain that smoke stacks were factories that produced clouds. I was certain that these white, wispy plumes were what caused fresh rain to fall and snow to dance.

So, it was jarring for me to realize this wasn’t true. In fact, the factories were doing quite the opposite; instead of protecting the earth, they were attacking it.

Coincidentally, pollution is now a health concern for me. I have a sensitivity to dust and pollution and sometimes when I’m in the city for a long time, I don’t feel very well. I cannot often see my grandparents. They live in Wuhan, a city in China where the air is getting worse and worse.

I am an organizer for the climate strikes in Philadelphia, and I’m used to adults coming up to me and applauding me for what I’m doing. And oftentimes, that is the end of it. It’s a well-intended compliment that feels demeaning, and it’s frustrating.

This is a collective feeling that us, teens, are feeling. We feel that we can’t afford to be naïve. We want to live in a world where we aren’t afraid of a dying planet!

I feel extremely lucky to live in Lower Merion. I find that people really love to walk here. We have clean streets and beautiful parks and lofty trees—I was even alive enough to vaguely remember the incredible creation of Linwood Park in Ardmore. But it’s time for the next step. Thank you.

Find more information about Ready For 100 here.