The Young Environmentalists

Corporations need to make changes to 'green' their operations and products, but more importantly they need to cut down the noise -- make empirical data available to consumers, in coordination with third parties.
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We started MakeMeSustainable to close the gap between people's desire to help the environment and their ability to do so. We wanted to cut down the noise, to cut through the "green washing," and simplify the language and approach to becoming ecologically responsible citizens. The internet is essentially shared property, available to everyone and choreographed expressly through participation; we saw it as the ideal platform for a shared response to the environmental crisis we all face. Our site is ultimately about connecting fear to hope, inspiration to action, the ordinary to the extraordinary, and people's everyday responses to global warming. MakeMeSustainable is a vehicle for tying the potential of the online space to the local, human element that makes this movement tangible, and reminds us why our planet is worth struggling for.

We are more connected than at any point in history, yet we suffer from a deep emptiness, a paradoxical disconnect from both the consequences of our actions and our ability to affect change. Global warming might be the greatest challenge our generation will face, but it is also the greatest opportunity to address many of our modern ills while redefining our notion of progress. It could offer redemption. The current focus on Global warming revolves around lowering carbon emissions, but ultimately it is about understanding how what we do affects our world. By addressing the carbon emissions from various activities on a personal, national and international level we are able to explore the connections and inequities that characterize us.

We are environmentalists because it has everything to do with humanity. Environmental justice and social justice have become inextricably linked. When you drive a Hummer or vote for the politician who refuses to acknowledge the angry truth and warnings of our fevered planet you are not simply turning your back on a polar bear drowning, or a disappearing landscape. When you buy Brazilian hardwood illegally logged from the Amazon it is the moral equivalent of buying slave grown cotton 200 years ago. Yes, that sounds strong, but consider the pressure the disappearance of Lake Chad put on the tenuous peace in the Darfur region; consider the daily nightmare that the residents of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans still face; consider the tens of millions of refugees and deaths that will become of Bangladesh if sea levels rise to predicted levels in the next decade; consider that Bangladesh is only responsible for .1 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. How, when we know so much, can we close our eyes, turn our backs and cup our hands over our ears? When we ask people about whether they care about global warming the answers always differ in approach but end in the same place -- exhaustion at the scope of the crisis, deafness at the noise surrounding it and ultimately a certain sort of numbness. Many of us seem stuck in a state of narcosis when it comes to climate change -- paralyzed by what seems like an endless set of problems. We need a vital response. We need to rise above the blindness, the doubt, the politics and the fear. What we need is to rise above the noise.

The world is waiting for us to live up to our obligation and prove that this nation has not lost its moral compass. We cannot let this become political. We need to follow the example of Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg in transcending the lexicon of politics as usual. They are listening to scientists, urban planners and economists, not polls and lobbyists. The politicization of global warming is also pushed by the media where journalists, hyper-focused on seeming impartial, find quotes from more than one side of the 'debate' to get a 'well rounded' story. But global warming is not a political issue and should not be treated as such -- it is a crisis.

Corporations need to make changes to 'green' their operations and products, but more importantly they need to cut down the noise -- make empirical data available to consumers, in coordination with third parties. There needs to be a carbon number attached to products so that we can make informed choices.

Finally, we need to stop seeing ourselves foremost as consumers. We need to educate ourselves and spend wisely, support companies doing their part to cut emissions and buy products that have a low impact. We need to view these changes as progress, not as disruption. Every company is reaching for the green paint, politicians are knotting their green ties, and magazine covers, morning talk shows, and celebrity endorsements are promoting environmentalism as the next big thing. But this is not a trend and it won't be passing us by next spring. In fact it will only become more unbridled. This might very well be the greatest challenge we as a species have ever faced.

We know how that sounds -- Orwellian at best -- but we need only look at the latest IPCC report to see how close we are to a tipping point. We are at the edge of a new world and how we respond in this decade, not the next, will decide whether this will be a world of the unthinkable -- a future of clawing chaos and constant uncertainty, or whether it will be a yet unimagined place -- a brave new world of ingenuity and creation, another graceful and furious tale of the resilience of the human spirit to adapt and thrive in the face of great odds and struggle. We are young environmentalists because we believe that this is only the beginning. And we have hope.

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