Students move from Earth Day planting to environmental diplomas | Voice of America

Fifty-one years ago, young people planted trees for the first Earth Day.

Today, students participate in environmental law, science and other disciplines to heal the planet.

“You don’t have to be an environmental professional to help the environment,” Briana Allison, an environmental science student at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, wrote to VOA. “Everyone should find a way to get involved in preserving the planet where we are at home.”

Briana Allison, environmental science student at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. (Photo courtesy of Briana Allison)

Climate change is a major problem for young people. People under 30 are so worried about the planet that experts have given their concern a name: eco-anxiety. The stress of climate change affects their daily lives, said nearly half of 2017 adults polled in 2019 by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association.

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Allison specializes in physical geology and the effects of climate change on coasts.

“It’s important to point out that climate change is contributing to problems like flooding and coastal erosion,” Allison wrote to VOA. “I have personally recognized that climate change is involved, and I make sure to talk about it when I share my environmental passions with others.”

She continued, “I have completed research on the topics and in my conclusion mentioned the negative effects of climate change on flooding and erosion. I am committed to informing others and not ignoring that this problem exists. ”

Bongekile Kuhlase studied at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, where she obtained her Masters in Plant Ecology. In an email to VOA, Kuhlase noted that it is important not to dwell on the past when it comes to today’s environment.

Bongekile Kuhlase studies at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.  (Photo courtesy of Bongekile Kuhlase)
Bongekile Kuhlase studies at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. (Photo courtesy of Bongekile Kuhlase)

“Mistakes have been made, it’s good to admit, just so that it doesn’t happen again,” she explained. Kuhlase’s studies enabled him to “effectively plan ways to try to restore the ecology that previously existed” in an environment.

“I’m literally living my dream right now doing community conservation and land restoration,” she wrote to VOA. “I believe that humans are not separate from nature and that for real change we must be part of the solutions, teach the community and learn from them and their ways.”

Allison also touched on the idea that the climate change divide might not always be specifically age-related. While the older generations could be “responsible for the problems that prevail today”, they have tried to help the planet.

“Younger generations seem more likely to engage in environmentally friendly activities and lobby for new environmental laws and policies. The older generations have put in place measures to protect the environment, such as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, ”she wrote.

The EPA was created after the first Earth Day, held in the spring of 1970, which united the fight against “oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, highways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife ”. according to EARTHDAY.ORG, an organization that works to create action on environmental issues around the world.

“Over time, we learn better ways of doing things so that the planet doesn’t get even more damaged for the next generations to come,” Allison wrote.

For Natasha Das, a third-year student at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), she found herself making less sustainable choices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of preparing meals, she ordered take-out, which is plastic. She said she was unable to clean her masks as often, which led to her using more single-use masks.

“For me, I’m really into individual lifestyle choices,” she says. It “gives the impression that we still have some power.”

Change doesn’t have to be difficult, she said.

“I would say being aware of how much plastic is in your day-to-day life or how many things you do is actually not sustainable,” she said. “Because only when you know your real impact can you start making changes. And then also realize that it is not that difficult. … So I didn’t think I could compost in the dorms until I recently thought to myself: “What if I just did Google?” ”

Dashka Maslyukova also said that individual choices, when made up, can create large-scale change.

“Individual actions, when formed in small groups, can actually have more impact than just your individual actions,” she told VOA.

Maslyukova, a student at George Mason University in Virginia, is president of the Mason Environmental Justice Alliance (MEJA) and has worked with other groups, locally and across the United States.

“Much of our work over the past three to four years has been with the Mountain Valley pipeline in southwest Virginia, and the fight that continues,” Maslyukova said. “So we held rallies on campus, called and by phone, and wrote postcards to the governor, and worked with the Appalachian Youth Climate Coalition.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a pipeline that runs from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia that is “about 92% complete,” according to the project’s website.

MEJA wants to stop production of the MVP, claiming that it “will cut off waterways, mountains, indigenous lands, worsen the climate crisis by increasing the use of fossil fuels”.

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