Featuring West Michigan Activists
Everyone needs a voice and an expression. On the West Michigan Social and Environmental Justice Blog, we feature diverse voices discussing the issues that matter to them.
STARDUST, 9th Grade Student
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
This prophetic quote from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax speaks profoundly to the crisis of global climate change. The story is of a man who cut down trees and placed his desire for profit above everything and everyone. He didn’t stop until the last tree was cut, the air and water polluted, and all the creatures moved away.
Dr. Seuss wrote The Lorax nearly 50 years ago; but the message is still relevant. Humans are capable of destroying the environment, even when they depend on it. Nothing will improve until we place concern for the environment above individual greed.
Global temperatures began rising significantly 30 years ago due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The intense consequences manifest as: severe natural disasters, irregular weather patterns, ocean acidification, sea level rise, human health issues, species loss in the millions due to habitat loss and human encroachment, and thousands of people losing their homes due to natural disasters.
Scientists, collecting data for the last thirty years, have linked these awful realities to climate change. Projecting forward, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hypothesizes that we may have 12 years left to turn things around before rising temperatures make Earth uninhabitable for human life.
Data like this speaks for itself, communicating to us that we must unify to reverse this crisis; mass cooperation across the globe will be necessary. Yet the idea of solving this issue being a human agenda that must be prioritized seems foreign in the current political climate where partisan, divisive rhetoric predominates. Why? Is there something in the human psyche that causes us to perpetuate this disaster against ourselves?
History shows us that Homo sapiens have evolved to become all-powerful over our environment by creating imagined systems of order which we believe to be true, and which then unify us. These systems have dangerous power over us because of our collective belief in them. For instance, money doesn’t have any real value. Money is a fiction which unifies us into one economy. The mass cooperation derived from this imagined system, among others, functions to elevate our species above all others (Harari, Yuval Noah, ‘Sapiens’).
Yet these imagined systems operate at great cost to the climate. For instance, trees, these amazing machines which give us oxygen, are being cut down at the rate of 48 football fields per minute for profit. Essentially, the imagined value of green paper is placed above both the well-being of trees and humanity.
Maybe there is something in the human psyche that has been solidified over time and which causes us to believe too firmly in imagined systems. Our fictions have been beneficial and yet destructive when valued above the terrifying reality of climate change. Some fictions serve to unify people through collective belief, yet divide those who subscribe to different fictions, as is demonstrated, for instance, by the system of political parties. What if we could all be unified not by a fiction, but by a reality—the reality of climate change? How would we make that shift
This shift in thinking won’t require us to abandon our affiliation to any one particular fiction but rather to change the way we think about its role in our lives. Will we prioritize these fictions before the reality of climate change or after it? Research indicates that this shift in thinking is possible, but it won’t come from confrontational dialogue.
Methods utilized by psychologists can be employed in order for non-partisan, open-minded, constructive dialogue to take place. One of these effective methods is called civil discourse. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, civil discourse features: a serious exchange of views; focus on issues rather than individuals; defense uses verified information; thoughtful listening; discerning the sources of disagreement and points of common purpose; open-mindedness and a willingness to change; treating the ideas of others with respect and avoidance of violence (physical, emotional, and verbal).
Although there is no guarantee of success, in order to create a global call to urgent action against climate change, we need to educate about the fictional nature of our imagined systems, the reality of the climate crisis, and the importance of engaging in constructive dialogue surrounding these two. This is what will build a climate movement of people who will together take direct action reverse this crisis.
The Key To Reducing Gun Violence
Written By: Hannah, 15 years old
“No one understood the extent of what had happened… no one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day… no one could comprehend the devastating aftermath… where this would go. For those who still can’t comprehend because they refuse to, I’ll tell you where it went- right into the ground, six feet deep, six minutes and twenty seconds with an AR15” (Emma Gonzalez). On February 14, 2018, a teenage gunman killed 17 students and injured 17 others at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At the 2018 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., survivor Emma Gonzalez delivered the speech from which these words are taken. Since the Majority Stoneman Douglas shooting, an average of three American children have been fatally shot every day. A full 18 years prior to this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recognized the prevalent gun death toll for children, publishing an article about firearm injuries in the pediatric population, which provided evidence to support their position statement that “firearm regulations, to include bans of handguns and assault weapons, are the most effective way to reduce firearm-related injuries.”
Instead of enacting proper gun legislation, politicians send thoughts and prayers, promising solidarity with the survivors… while they sit comfortably in their government seats backed by the NRA, insisting that guns are not the issue behind these countless attacks on human lives. How would the students at Majority Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook Elementary, Oshkosh West High, and many more whose lives were stolen from them by poisoned policy, which failed to keep them safe, respond to this?
When so much proof exists to support the AAP’s statement, there is no excuse for politicians not to accept that gun control is imperative. Though it may not eradicate gun violence entirely, firearm regulations, including bans of handguns and assault weapons, are the most effective way to reduce firearm related injuries, because the majority of guns used in crimes are handguns or assault weapons.
Eighty percent of the guns used in crimes are handguns; therefore, banning handguns could contribute to a drastic reduction in gun deaths. Along with other assault weapons, handguns can be purchased at age 18, making it easier for teenagers to buy guns than beer. Instigated in 1994, a federal ban on assault weapons caused a 25% decline in high-fatality mass shootings, while massacre deaths by assault weapons fell by 40% and fatalities by 54%. Unfortunately, this ban expired in 2004, and gun deaths have surged as a result, definitively proving that a ban on assault weapons can cause a significant decrease in gun deaths. When politicians put corporate interests before human lives, refusing to take action to rectify poisoned policy, they are complicit in the murder of countless children. Though implementing a ban on handguns and assault weapons cannot eradicate gun violence entirely, this is the most effective way to reduce it; thus it is imperative that these measures be taken.