The following response is a contribution from a student at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Diversity of opinions, one of the fundamental thoughts of a democracy, is a key concept that must be maintained in order to have a democracy that works properly. However, over the past year, it has become quite apparent how divided we, the citizens of the United States, really are. When a country named after its principal ideals is so unhealthily in opposition of them, it becomes somewhat alarming and begs the question, can a democracy so divided come together to save ourselves in times of environmental crisis?
It is a well-known fact that the political realm of the United States is fully corrupted by the fossil fuel industry as well as countless other profit-driven powers. They manipulate the course of the country by forcing their way into the government with their money and use their power over politicians to benefit themselves, often times harming the environment. Their actions, directly perpetrated by citizens, lead to massive climate issues, including rising sea levels, melting glaciers, the changing of salt chemistry in oceans, extinction of species, erratic weather patterns, global warming, and the destruction of the ozone layer to name a few.
Yet we seem to carry on in our lives in the same destructive manner. While many Americans may be opposed to corporations running our government, they continue to support those powerful corporations by consuming more and more resources. However, it has gotten to a point where our cultural economic values have made it nearly impossible to cut ties from theses corporations and live without harming the planet and other life. For example, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is run by high-ranking individuals in the fossil fuel industry, it becomes evident that these corporations have such deep ties into every part of the system that any agency like the EPA is subject to the bribery and manipulation that come with these corporations.
All these issues are what happens when a democracy is in failure. So the answer to the question “can democracy in crisis deal with climate crisis?” is more complicated than a yes or no answer. Even the way the question is worded implies that democracy and climate are two different things. When in reality, they’re completely interdependent and require the same solution.
When we the people stop demanding change and start asking for it, we lose the power to make any change whatsoever. In order to change how we deal with our climate crisis, we must first rebuild our democratic practices and ideals to be able to function properly as a country. In doing so, we would need to change our mindset to one of less consumption and more support of our local economies, as well as making sure that money stays away from politics. There are many things wrong with our democracy and this is just one of the things that needs to be changed.
By changing our political system to a more efficient and equal one, we can start to create the future we the people wish to see. Through this we would not only save ourselves, but life on Earth as we know it. When we take things into our own hands, we can create something for the people, by the people with no political influence exerted by corporations. Let us rebuild our democracy so that we can regain control, and begin to enact positive environmental change. United we can deal with our climate crisis. Divided we cannot.