Air is all around us. We feel this air in everything we do, and it’s moving right now through your nose, into your lungs and back out. This air makes up the skin of our planet. Our planet’s skin is thinner comparatively than the skin of an apple. From your backyard, it may look infinite, but this beautiful, breathable air extends only 5 to 7 miles above the surface of Earth. It is fragile and wraps Earth in a blanket protecting you, me and 7 billion of our neighbors as we go around the sun through the vastness of space.
Inside this skin, we’re all closely connected. The breath you just took could have contained some of the same atoms that Gandhi breathed during his lifetime.
This skin insulates and regulates global temperatures in a range that is just right for water and life as we know it. In the space between the blue ocean and black eternity of space, the clouds carry all the water needed for the soils. The air stirs the water, fills the rivers and lakes, and waters the lands.
As we breath, our eyes see changes that are sobering. Our eyes look out our windows and see Minnesota winters changing. They see those living with asthma or seasonal allergies suffering a bit more each year. They see extreme weather events impacting our neighbors in Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, California, Florida and North Carolina. They see the lands relentlessly being taken away, inch by inch, by rising sea levels and see refugees escaping crop failure and water scarcity.
They see disease-carrying pests moving into our little slice of Earth. Invasive species like the emerald ash borer are thriving in places they shouldn’t and are taking away the trees that our children swing from and provide shade for our picnics. They see that tick season is longer resulting in more cases of Lyme disease and stirring some anxiety.
We see that we’ve begun to live on an unfamiliar planet. The changes are alarming, they are speeding up, and the skin of our planet Earth traps us on this warming and changing world. Individual worries and sacrifices have not slowed it, yet the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: We are literally in this together.
Having the courage to know we can change things is a choice. It’s a willingness to confront danger, uncertainty or intimidation together. Courage is looking at uncertainty right in the eye and saying, “Get out of my way, I’ve got things to change.”
Courage is youths’ suing the United States federal government and demanding it protect their constitutional right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations.
Courage is found in a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, who started the global “School strike for climate” in Sweden. In March, she led a global movement in which 1.4 million youth around the world left school for a day to let governments know they must do more to preserve the climate we will hand them, according to organizers.
Courage is our military’s preparing for a future and national security risks they’ve never seen before.
Courage is asking your friends and family what they think about climate change and connecting with over shared values.
Courage is confronting your deepest biases and seeking empirical truths, not truths that fit a narrative or your political identity about science or solutions.
Courage is applauding debates in Congress about solutions. The most “Trumpian” Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and the most “socialist” Democrat, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, share the common view that climate change is human-caused. They each recognize that if Congress sits idly by and does nothing, it is an abject failure of responsibility.
Gaetz’s Green Real Deal and Cortez’s Green New Deal both strive to de-carbonize the American economy. It’s possible the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will be the piece of legislation that binds their legacies together.
We cannot escape the reality that, in this fight, humanity is on the same team. We have one shared home with common air that flows through all of us. The laws of physics are fixed, but with sober eyes and relentless courage, we can work together to protect the only planet we have so it continues to sustain us all.