Letter to the Editor: Defend Our Future urges students to act against climate change

Students should advocate for a fully-funded EPA

This letter to the editor was written by a group of ASU student interns at Defend Our Future, an advocacy group promoting environmental and sustainable solutions to fight climate change. 

This is an open letter to our fellow ASU students. We are interns and volunteers with Defend Our Future, a nonpartisan environmental student group here on campus that is dedicated to fighting climate change. You’ve probably seen us around, clipboard in hand, asking “do you have a second to help protect the environment?"

Our generation consistently ranks climate change as the number one issue that concerns us, and over 90 percent of people younger than 35 believe that it is indeed very real. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as we are the ones who will not only be affected the most by its most devastating impact, but we may also be the last generation that could right this ship and steer us towards a more sustainable future. 

As the global population surpasses 7.6 billion, we need to continue to refine and enhance our ability to provide each and every human with adequate resources while also maintaining the health of the planet. It’s a daunting task, but one that our survival will only continue to depend on as the years progress. 

This past year alone has seen multiple negative effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, record-setting temperatures and disastrous hurricanes. With so many students from ASU coming from not only Arizona but also from states all over the U.S., it has been our families who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey, our families watching their homes burn in violent forest fires and our families that will face water shortages in the years to come. 

Instead of heeding these warning signs and taking action, the Trump administration and Congress have decided to enact regressive policies that will only exasperate these issues. The Environmental Protection Agency, which plays a vital role in safeguarding our air, land and water from degradation and addresses climate change on myriad fronts, has been continuously under siege since January 2017. 

Proposed budget cuts to the EPA by the administration and Congress will make EPA funding its lowest in 40 years when adjusted for inflation. The proposed 31 percent cut recently included in the administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget would decimate funding to programs that monitor and protect our environment, research and address climate change and encourage sustainability. 

As college students, it is disheartening to see that these cuts will not only be disastrous for the environment but also for the economy. Cutting the EPA’s budget could translate into a loss of quality jobs for our generation in the renewable energy sector, one with growth rates that are already outpacing those in coal and natural gas. It is a right hook to a field in which countless college students majoring in STEM and other areas are passionate about building a career. 

Additionally, as administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has done considerable damage to the agency he is supposed to lead. In only a year, Pruitt has proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, reportedly monitored the ban of any mention of climate change from EPA materials and left key positions unfilled — all while publicly denying that climate change is harmful and caused by humans

He has also shown that he cannot be trusted with taxpayer funds, as he has used them for personal “necessities,” such as hiring a 24/7 security detail, constructing a $43,000 secret phone booth and repeatedly flying first class because people are mean to him in coach. This all has led to several ethics investigations, with Pruitt joining numerous members of Trump’s cabinet who are both fighting against the mission of the agency they lead and frivolously spending taxpayer money for personal gain. 

As young people, we all look forward to the future we have before us. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our long- or short-term health and safety because our leaders are failing to address climate change and protect us from its many negative consequences. We need people in power who understand issues concerning our environment and take them seriously; it is paramount to our collective future. 

Defend Our Future is urging people to call Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain and demand that they publicly stand up for our economy and environment by asking for a fully-funded EPA and for Pruitt’s immediate resignation. 

Climate change isn’t the future; it is most certainly the present, and it sadly makes the news more and more as the months and years progress. 

Our representatives need to hear loudly from our generation, as no one will listen and advocate for change if we remain silent about an issue so important to us all. You can’t shift the conversation about climate change unless you alter who’s having it, so let’s start right here, right now. 

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

Reach Nick Petrusek, Defend Our Future's Arizona state director, at nick@defendourfuture.org or follow @DefendOurFuture on Twitter. 

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

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