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We tickle the roots, gently roll the stump into the pre-dug hole, and begin filling empty spaces with moist, rich soil. We work in silence. As the last layer of mulch is added to the donut ring around our scrawny oak tree, I wipe the sweat from my forehead and say, “a job well done.” Turning to Chris, I see a playful grin spread across his face. “You know, algae releases way more oxygen into the atmosphere than trees,” he taunts. Annoyed, I argue that fertilizing the ocean with algae is inefficient, increasing the pH levels in the water and disrupting the ecosystem. He laughs and taps my shoulder, “I know, I know. I just like teasing you. I don’t believe in global warming anyways, you know that.”
I do know. Along with the third of Americans who don’t think people have anything to do with global warming, and the fifth that completely deny the problem, Chris has no convictions behind the necessity of planting trees. He’s here because I’m here. I think he needs a more long-lasting motivation to reduce his carbon footprint. I struggle to summon up some stats on climate change to somehow persuade him, but my arguments are emotional and unconnected. How did that packet we received in Environmental Science class last time so logically prove existence of global warming? What did that article about ice core dating I read about last night reveal about our carbon levels? Why can’t I replicate Al Gore’s persuasive speech to take action? I vow to prepare a better comeback for the next time I see Chris. In the meantime, I move on to the next tree sapling and start to vigorously dig a hole.
I’ve been worried by climate change since middle school, when I completed a research project on global warming for the mock “Trial of Planet Earth”. The facts I found led me to believe it is the single most important problem that humanity must face today. Changes in climate will create changes in the economy, setting off a domino effect that will affect all aspects of our lives. People often ask me why I’m so passionate about saving the environment, thinking me to be more concerned with trees than humans. Actually, I’m trying to preserve a favorable environment for humans to live in. We often forget that we are part of an inextricably interconnected system, within which every cause has an effect. I love people and want to work with them in order to create a good world for everyone.
Reversing climate change rests on the shoulders of my generation. I realize that the problems we face are incredibly complex. Hopefully I will be able to contribute to finding solutions and shaping public policy after studying environmental earth sciences at Johns Hopkins. Until that time, I will continue doing my part by riding my bike to school, running the Environmental Club, and, yes, planting oak saplings in the park with my friends.
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