Wake up. Eat. Go to School. Eat. Study. Eat. TV. Sleep. Rinse and Repeat.
For a number of years, this was the epitome of my daily routine. Occasionally, on those rarest of rare days where I felt especially optimistic, a few minutes worth of ambitious ideas for DIY projects would flood my mind - but nothing more. In most cases, though, changes to my typically benign schedule mainly involved the addition of a little physical activity here and there, or another form of entertainment in lieu of the television.
“Tomorrow,” I often told myself, convinced that putting off seemingly challenging tasks for the time being would result in a fierce desire to tackle them the following day. Eventually, this word became all-encompassing, seeping into every aspect of my life - socially, academically, you name it - until it turned into a mantra of mine.
In times of despair, an uttering of “Tomorrow” would provide me reassurance. In times of distress, solace, and in boredom, this word gave me optimism that better things were still yet to come. But growing up, in the face of so many unique adversities, never in my wildest dreams did I dare dream of actually doing.
Or perhaps I did. But even then, it was to wait until…tomorrow.
The very idea of taking matters into my own two hands and addressing them head-on seemed daunting, nearly impossible even. After all, isn’t there someone else out there who can fix the world’s problems? What can I, an ordinary tween, contribute, anyway? These very thoughts plagued my worldview, unapologetically acting as justifications for my indifference and passivity when it came to practically any issue you can think of.
“Tomorrow,” I vowed, “not today.”
Enter climate change.
Since I was young, I have always loved being outdoors, surrounded by nature. After all, it was the perfect way for an apathetic child to distance herself from the hustle and bustle of the big metropolises where I was raised.
Having spent most of my formative years in Japan, the concept of being mindful to not litter was highly emphasized, but so was the effectiveness of the nation’s incineration capacities, so I didn’t think too much whenever I saw pieces of trash flitting across the streets.
Furthermore, all throughout elementary school, questioning the ‘status quo’ or the popular ‘social norms’ was a one-way ticket to being an outcast and ridiculed by my peers, nevermind taking an outright stance! In fact, I guarantee I would have balked completely if someone had suggested I “stood up for what was right”. To my then twelve year-old self, everything perpetrated by the media, world leaders, and ‘mainstream society’ had to be correct. What was there to question?
It wasn’t until I got to middle school that I began to notice the ‘finer details’, largely thanks to my improved Internet research abilities, my exposure to various actions taken by a wider range of school clubs, most notably the environmental council, and a few particularly influential teachers.
However, as I grew increasingly knowledgeable about the dire state of our planet and the inaction by decision-makers, adult leaders, and the like, I started to get a sense of just how urgent things were, be it the world’s carbon budget or, by extension, rate of sea level rise.
It was then I realized that I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting idly by when the lives and/or livelihoods of my entire generation - and the one after it - are at risk. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. But starting from when I took that very first leap of faith, I have had the immense privilege to witness firsthand the impacts over the years of what can happen when one decides to dream AND do, because the two are not mutually exclusive.
To my fellow youth out there feeling hopeless or insignificant, know that you are not alone. I too used to harbour those same sentiments. But now I urge you to channel those feelings into tangible action. Find causes to feel passionate about. Then, find ways to make a positive difference. Heck, even find others just like you to embark on the journey together.
And, if the craziness that was the U.S. election has taught me anything, it’s that you cannot underestimate the power of a single tweet...and that the new President-elect has openly expressed climate change as a farce perpetrated by the Chinese, but that’s a post for another time.
Either way, we cannot continue to find excuses and push environmental issues to the bottom of our agenda. They aren’t a problem for ‘tomorrow’. They beckon for our attention now. I do not have to wait until I become a leader of tomorrow to do something if I choose to become a leader of today.
Procrastination is not the solution to the world’s troubles.
Today. Not tomorrow.