Unfortunately for me I am back in the United States surrounded by final exams, papers, and lab practicals. I would much rather be in Lima experiencing week two of COP, but there is that whole undergraduate thing that I have to do.
I wanted to write a post about what it was like coming back to Raleigh after being at COP. I think my biggest realization was earlier today when I went to talk to one of my professors. I had to get permission from all of my professors to leave for my trip, so she knew I was gone. My professor asked me about my trip, and of course I raved about the incredible experience and that I only hope to go back next year. She replied, "Oh, it's an annual conference?" I was disappointed, and frankly, shocked that she didn't know. Which made me think, who does? Who actually cares about climate change, but more importantly WHY don't more people care about climate change?
Another thing happened today that made me wonder about the way people view climate change. One of my roommates walked back into our apartment after taking a final exam. I asked her how it went, and she said it went well but she was almost late. We live on a narrow road full of college apartment complexes, and apparently it was full of traffic today. Normally the drive to campus usually takes about 8 minutes, but my roommate said she was stuck on that road alone for 20 minutes. I told her she should jump on the biking bandwagon (I usually bike to campus and it takes me a little under 25 minutes). This made me wonder, why did hundreds of college students who all live along the same road individually get in their cars to all leave at the same time to go to the same place? The system doesn't make sense. Climate change has been called, "The greatest problem our generation faces." But why doesn't my generation care? Why do we value convenience and the easy fix over everything else? Why isn't my generation a leader in climate change action?
Being at COP made me realize even more that things have to change. Of course, COP is on an international level. But COP is made up of countries, which are made of states or governing bodies, which are made up of cities/towns/counties, which are made up of people. Just individual people. My best friend always says, "No one snowflake feels responsible for the avalanche," which I think is very wise. No individual college student driving to their exam felt responsible for the traffic jam my roommate experienced this morning. No individual citizen feels responsible for climate change, like my professor this morning. But if we have any hope of combating it, we all need to acknowledge the responsibility we owe our planet, our society, and our future. The responsibility to be informed about climate change news, and to live our lives in a way that is as sustainable as possible. Being in Raleigh has made me think about my own life and the fact that the American way of life desperately needs to change. The way we value our resources needs to change. It's not a question of if, but when. For the sake of our planet, I can only hope it happens sooner rather than later.