There have been five mass extinctions in our planet’s past half a billion years. In these mass extinctions, upwards of seventy-five percent of the earth’s species died off. The fifth, Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, consisted of the famous asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Elizabeth Kolbert, an environmental journalist, says in her book, “The Sixth Extinction”, “We are the asteroid”. Kolbert explains how evolution cannot keep up with extreme environmental changes. I did not realize just my ecological footprint alone was more than I ever could have imagined until I read this book.
I wanted to contribute to fixing the problem in any way I could, but I felt completely useless. Turning off your lights, carpooling, and recycling is simply just not enough. It made me feel better to be environmentally friendly, but it did not stop the damage from being done.
I had to make some changes in my personal life to not only help the environment but also to be able to reflect that I am serious about Environmentalism.
It started as small changes, but eventually, this progress started altering my lifestyle in major ways. I started recycling more. I got a reusable water bottle. I then started altering my diet to be more eco-friendly such as cutting out dairy and limiting meats. The bigger changes to my lifestyle and diet were very difficult. Yet starting soon, I will make the full transition into becoming vegan. Through Key Club, I invited my friends to frequently volunteer to clean up the local parks.
The experience of cleaning the park though left us very discouraged. Every time we picked up the countless trash, the very next week it would look the same. But then we started staying longer and making sure it was completely clean, and the next time we returned it looked so much better. I think people get in a pattern of disregarding their surroundings if others do. I think because people saw a clean park, they wanted to maintain that. Our success with cleaning up the park was just the beginning though. While it made my group of friends happy to see ducks swimming without trash, it still isn’t enough.
“The Sixth Extinction” is what got me politically active. After reading about the extreme damage that is currently being done to our planet and its inhabitants, I started asking myself, “who’s responsible?”. Of course, everyone is partially to blame; However, one hundred corporations are doing seventy percent of the damage. It started to seem like profit incentives for exploiting our planet are to blame. This lead me to take up an offer a fellow friend involved with cleaning up the park gave me. She invited me to Young Democratic Socialists of America during my junior year. I was shown that YDSA not only wants to aid the liberation of workers, but also the liberation of nonhumans. Through YDSA I could help substantially more. This year, because of my involvement, I am the president of YDSA. Through this leadership position, I feel like I can make a bigger impact on protecting our environment. I have recruited upwards of fifteen members. With these active members and group efforts, bigger feats can be accomplished that I had never been able to do alone. Not only do we volunteer, but we participate in political activism. There’s a reason why people protest, it works. One hundred corporations contribute to over seventy percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Our generation, through collective efforts, can change that. I don’t want us to be the “asteroid” anymore.