The Copenhagen climate conference taught me we will have to adapt to the effects of climate change. If this had not been clear in my mind beforehand, the stories I heard from global young people awoke me to reality. I heard about droughts in Kenya and floods in Bangladesh. Youth from my local area shared stories of environmental illnesses and inequities. In addition, Pershing, the head United States negotiator at the conference, explained to us in a hearing that while we do not know the exact amount of funding that will be needed for climate change adaptation in the coming decades, the numbers will be high and the need is urgent. Change has begun. I know that I cannot sit idly by as climate change accelerates.
As I continue to reflect on my intense team experience of the negotiations, I ask myself how I can help a changing world transition into a healthier place where we will continue to face climate change. The most important lesson I learned in Copenhagen was how critical it is for me to work within my own community to create solutions to climate change. The Midwest will be a critically important region as we work for national climate legislation, and I have political power as a voter and organizer in a swing state. This legislation could help our Midwest states thrive as we shift to a new clean energy economy.
This fall, riding my bike around Minnesota with Reed, I saw many examples of climate solutions. This trip inspired me to find ways to engage my community through gardening, alternative transportation, and other measures for adapting to a changing world. The Midwest contains vast stretches of agricultural land and a large portion of the earth’s fresh water. We have many opportunities to lead the globe through local initiatives.
Through the Copenhagen conference, I also realized that my work to study past adaptations to climate change and vulnerable ecosystems has real value for us today. I fell in love with archaeology in high school and decided to focus on ancient food production in college. More sustainable, healthier agricultural systems are possible, and past farming techniques can provide examples for how to innovate and move forward without fossil fuels. Every area of study, and every student, can help us face the future as responsible citizens of the globe through local action. What will you do?