16-year-old Maya Faison from Queens, New York recently shared her thoughts on Hurricane Sandy and climate change in an article published by Climate Progress. Maya wrote the article on her sixth day without heat, her sixth day without power, and her sixth day with no gas in her mom’s car to escape. What troubled me most in what she shared is this: “I feel let down and disappointed that it’s taken a major storm that has taken over 40 lives and counting for my elected leaders to acknowledge the reality of climate change.”

Maya Faison, 16. Photo Credit: Global Kids
Maya Faison, 16. Photo Credit: Global Kids

We’ve understood that storms like Sandy stood on our horizons for over 35 years. Representing the global community at the 1979 World Climate Conference, the United Nations recognized both humanity’s vulnerability to climate variations and the climate’s vulnerability to humanity’s actions. The U.S government officially recognized the threat of climate change as early as 1978.

Yet we continue to prioritize the profits of the fossil fuel industry over our children’s future. We continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry instead of supporting the companies that are working on making renewables a reality. We continue to give primacy to what industry refers to as their ‘legally protected interest in the right to pollute in an unrestrained manner.’ In doing so, we undermine our rights to clean water, food security, health, adequate shelter, personal security, the right to vote, and in the end, even our right to life.

I feel terrible that people in my community had to lose loved ones during these storms before we could ‘get it.’ And I feel terrible for saying this, but it must be acknowledged. Hurricane Sandy and her aftermath is our fault.

We cannot continue to place the blame on the Earth. We cannot continue to write off extreme weather events as weather just doing what weather does. Most importantly, we cannot allow the lives that were lost during Sandy in the U.S. and in the Caribbean to be lost in vain.

Instead, we have to acknowledge that human-induced climate change is just that: human-induced. And then, most critically, we have to take unprecedented steps to fix our mess. While this may feel overwhelming and politically implausible, the world’s top climate scientists tell us it is possible. I trust them. And that is why WITNESS is standing alongside the many youth that, like Maya, are calling on our leaders to take a comprehensive approach to addressing the climate crisis based on carbon science instead of carbon politics.

In TRUST Iowa, my friend Glori reminds us that we all share the same sky. This common denominator requires that, for the first time in human history, we have to all come together. Glori also wisely reminds us the climate is an issue we cannot give up on. Nor can we compromise.

So please read Maya’s post and watch stories told by her peers and then help by going to:

  • Global Kids, the organization Maya is involved with here in New York City
  • Our Children’s Trust, WITNESS’s partner organization that empowers our youth to protect the Earth’s climate for future generations
  • iMatter Campaign, WITNESS partner that work to empower youth leadership to address the climate crisis at all levels of government



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