Feeling Powerless as a 20 Year Old Climate Activist

I keep referring to this past summer as the “summer of change”, the “summer I got through my existential crisis”, etc. It’s been 3 months since I’ve left New York and come back into the real world, but I still can’t shut up about it. I keep using the same words over and over again to describe my summer, because it’s easier that way than to try to explain to my hyper-academic classmates why I didn’t try to pursue an internship at Boeing. I knew that I talked about it a lot, but it was only after talking to my mother last night that I realized that it had impacted me so much more than I had previously thought. Through interacting with people like Rachel Kibbe from the ethical e-commerce site Helpsy, Carlen Altman, and making friends at Daniel Pinchbeck’s Center for Planetary Culture, I was invigorated with a sense of passion and fervor for making change that I’d never felt before. It absolutely helped me get out of my funk, and made me put my petty personal issues in perspective.

Right now I’m reading Naomi Klein’s new book on capitalism and climate, This Changes Everything, in an attempt to try to better understand the struggle of moving towards a more sustainable society. The difference between this and other books is that it’s a book that explains the position of the left, and uses climate change more as a lens than a focus. Klein uses climate change as a lens to analyze why capitalism will be result in the downfall of our society. It is not a viewpoint that I understand or agree with completely, but I think that by reading this I will learn how to put myself in a position in which I will be able to help pioneer change in an effective form.

The disheartening part of this is that I don’t know how, and if I can make other people care. If the topic of environment comes up in conversation with friends then I try not to be too preachy about it, and often poke fun at myself as the resident treehugger, but this, along with posting Grist articles (probably too often) on Facebook that people don’t read don’t do anything. There is also the fact that I feel pressured to take any engineering job/internship that pays well because it will “build my career”, and people tell me that I should try to “chase my dreams” later on. But when it comes to something as big and abstract as the climate, time is of the essence and the movement needs all the help that it can get. The annoying part is that there’s no silver bullet and nobody has pre-mapped my dream career path.


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