Every year at ESK, eighth grade students share their “This I Believe” essays with their fellow classmates during Chapel. Students are tasked with sharing a life lesson they have learned with the student body. According to the “This I Believe” organization website, students are encouraged to “start by telling a compelling story about how you came to hold an important personal belief—something that guides your daily living.” The talks are based on the “This I Believe” radio show hosted by Edward R. Murrow more than 50 years ago. Students all over the country – and the world – participate in the “This I Believe” project each year. ESK will feature several of these essays, including today’s from eighth grader Ryan Steadman.
Melting ice caps. Drowning polar bears. These are the images that we see all the time on the news. To many political figures, these images are not a big deal, or to others they are a hoax. But that is not what I am up here to talk about. Have you ever heard an adult say the phrase:
“Your generation will change the world and make it a better place.” How often have you heard something like this? Probably a lot of adults tell you this. I know I have experienced it. But think about it. If the ice caps melt so much every year, how many will be left when I am old enough to even be taken seriously by the political or scientific community? What will there be left for us to change?
There is one word I can think of to describe the reason adults tell us to make the world a better place: procrastination. Sure, we all need to do our part to stop these tragedies from happening, but ignoring the problems now and leaving them to the next generation? That’s just as underhanded as leaving the trash just full enough that the next person by will have to clean it up, or just happening to forget a chore so your sibling has to do it, except the consequences of this procrastination could ruin the earth. Ice caps melting? Eeh, the newbies can take care of it in two or three decades. This attitude can be irresponsible and lazy, so, ironically, I am asking everyone here, student or teacher, to fight against this. The time is now. I do not mean to say that it is not our job to do our best to stop problems ourselves, but that we all must share the burden of setting things right together.
I wrote much of this talk during spring break; in fact, I had another speech written long ago, one that was arguably better, but I decided to put away my pride to talk about something much more important. If you read the news, you will see that the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency doubts the existence or effects of global warming, and he is rolling back regulations on waste all over the USA, regulations that have made our environment cleaner. Call it fake news or not, it is a frightening prospect.
So take action, regardless of political party or beliefs. Stand up for Mother Nature. She has held on for so long; it would be a waste for her to go down with only a few thousand notable years of humans populating her. Other species have lived on this earth without causing it harm; the destruction we see now is truly the fault of the human race. Rise up unite, and contact political figures. Join protests. Make comments online. Get your parents to do this together with other grown ups. This is not the fight of the next generation! Leaders today should not wait for our generation to solve this critical problem! Spread the word. I don’t care how many times I have to make this speech to remind the generation currently in power that this problem is not something that will disappear because other people will take care of it. It’s like cat barf on my carpet. I can see it and hope someone else will clean it up, but that’s not realistic. In the time it takes for us to rise to power, there may not be a place to have power over. Increasing populations, destruction of forests and threatening of national parks, pollution, holes in the ozone layer, and global warming are not things that will wait patiently while we figure out how to stop them. To the teachers in this room: there is no fault in having hope for the next generation. However, if you have kids or will have kids, how much will they enjoy learning that both our generations decided that the problems of the world are theirs to solve? Even worse, long after all of us are gone, the children that we brought Into the world will suffer from our problems never being solved, because we decided it was up to their generation. They will have to live in a world that can barely if even hold the ever expanding population and amount of needless waste. I ask, why are we the ones to have the responsibility of solving the problems others are too lazy or uninterested in solving themselves? If I recall, everyone here and their parents are not past the age of ability. If you could start making changes yourself, why don’t you? Why is it our problem if you could solve it just as easily as we could later in life? The only difference is the amount of effort and time you put into it, and the amount of time that will pass before any action is taken, providing we ever take any action. Why not start now, when it is not yet an emergency that threatens the lives of millions? Why wait for there to be no time left to make changes that could be made now? We need action. This is most likely the most controversial this I believe speech at ESK this year, if not ever in ESK. However, even if this is is not remembered, I know that we have to take action now, and it should not be left up to my generation. Procrastination kills. Take action while we can. This I believe.