I hate to admit it, but when our chemistry teacher first began to diverge from her scheduled lesson plan, I wasn’t paying much attention- it was Friday, at least I was in class. But when she mentioned that she wanted to start talking about some real world issues, I was suddenly wide awake- there was one real world issue I could think of with strong connections to chemistry. Sure enough, within twenty minutes we’d gotten the rundown on the climate crisis, and it was a lot worse than we’d known. Our teacher ended her lesson with a call to action- you’re young, she told us. You’re intelligent. You’re determined. Tell the world what you know. Make a video, a viral video. You can change the world!
We all left class that day with that unique, powerful feeling only new ideas can provide. Within a few days, I was creating a chat with a group of people in my chemistry class (and some who weren’t) who might be interested in doing something before the election to ask people to vote for environmentally friendly candidates. We didn’t know what we wanted to do or how we wanted to do it, but we knew we had to be fast. It was October, Election Day was just around the corner. We flew into the research stage, looking up the historical context of climate change as well as the expected future effects, reading whatever we could get our hands on. Before we knew what we were doing, we were drafting a script and planning a day to shoot- this was going to happen, and it was going to happen now.
The Friday of our shoot was hectic, a blur of camera angles and chocolate cupcakes and chasing after scripts lost to the wind. We were a bit worried (we hadn’t gotten mics, as we’d intended to), but we managed to coordinate about twenty-five people and film around twenty in two and a half hours. Our group chat didn’t quiet down all weekend- Monday couldn’t come fast enough. We counted the minutes until we could finally start editing.
However, when we actually sat down to edit, excitement started to turn to anxiety. Turns out the lack of mics was a bigger problem than we’d anticipated; some of our clips were so distorted by highway noise that they were nearly unusable. Nevertheless, we worked with what we had, coming in before school, during lunches, and after school to edit as fast as we could, occasionally talking our film and chemistry teachers into letting us use their class time. Within a week, we had a rough cut of our video, which quickly became a final cut. I remember the pure elation and relief we felt when the export bar finally crept its way to 100%... finally, we were finished. It was done... sort of.
Making a video won’t do much unless you get people to watch it. It had been shown at a meeting of our school’s Green Club, and 350moco had expressed interest in it, but we knew we needed to get it out to more people, and fast- Election Day was four days away. Within a few hours, everyone involved in the making of it had shared it, and gotten others to share it as well. We texted each other about new developments nearly hourly (“y’all! 1000 views!!!” “Yo we just got our first dislike, that means we’re reaching actual people!” “GUYS BILL MCKIBBEN TWEETED OUR VIDEO???”). By the time polls closed nationwide, we had over 2500 views- more than we’d ever expected to get. The product of three weeks of staying up past midnight was more than a video and a couple of inside jokes between our team- it was, we hoped, some awareness, some new understanding, for someone, somewhere, of one of the greatest issues plaguing our world today. Most of all, though, it was a realization among us that being sixteen didn’t make us powerless- if anything, it made us all the more powerful.
Climate change is an issue that we did not cause, but one that we are going to have to stop. A recently published IPCC report states that we have twelve years to change our ways- the days of hoping someone else will fix this are going to end, one way or another. This is not something we have to accept. It’s not something we can’t change. There is a paradigm of people who create change, and young people fit it perfectly.
Some of the greatest demonstrations in America’s history, from the Children’s Crusade to the March For Our Lives, have been organized by angry, intelligent and determined children and teenagers. These kids saw a problem and, realizing it was too important to wait to grow up before taking action, decided to do something about it. Was our video a national sensation? No. What it was, though, was the beginning of an emotional shift inside of all of us. It made us realize that being young was not a barrier, but an asset. Now is the time for action. Now is the time for change. We will not stop. We will continue to fight for what we know is right until we come of age, legally and figuratively- and we will see to it that the world is ready for us when we do.