In The Wake Of Sandy, A 16-Year Old Climate Activist Speaks Her Mind

by Maya Faison

(re-posted from ClimateProgress)

I am 16 years old and I am currently in my home in Laurelton, Queens. It is day six with no heat, no power and no gas in my mom’s car to escape.


Trees are down all over my neighborhood and at night it is pitch dark, with only the moon as light. I feel paralyzed with cold. It is a freezing chill that goes deep to the bone and makes me worried about the future I can have on this planet. It scares me to know that I am going to leave my family when I go to college next year—my grandmother, mom, aunt and sister–in such an uncertain place, knowing that they can be trapped, unable to go anywhere, if another heavy storm comes.

We may not be so lucky the next time.

As a climate change activist, I knew something like this was bound to happen, but I never expected something this big. I feel proud that I’ve been working with other activists to get our elected leaders to take immediate action on climate change. However, 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. We may have heard about how climate change affects far off places such as the Maldives or the Arctic. But here in New York City, it’s our reality more now more than ever.

This past June, I traveled to Rio de Janeiro to attend the United Nations Conference on Sustainability, also called Rio+20. Twenty years ago, before I was born, the first United Nations Earth Summit in Rio established benchmarks and promises to ensure a sustainable world for the future generation that meeting. Those promises were not kept.

I worked with other youth activists in Global Kids, a New York City based youth organization, and with many partner organizations, to persuade our leaders to attend the conference and to take action on climate change. At the conference, we were excited by the work of other citizens like us, all advocating for the changes we need to sustain our planet and our future. But we were also heartbroken that many world leaders didn’t attend and only a few were willing to commit to the necessary work that needs to be done to make sure other young people like me are guaranteed the future we deserve and the basic rights to food, water, air and health.

I am happy to hear that our Mayor has decided to endorse a President who realizes what a problem climate change is. As climate change has become more of a reality, more and more people have been trying to dispute the fact that it is as grave of an issue as it is. My message to them and to all of our leaders on the eve of the Election is simple: do not let any more time pass before you take action. Our nation is in danger and my future is in danger.

This is the future I want: a country that is better prepared for climate and environmental disasters, and is working proactively to mitigate global warming. Just like we have fire drills in school, we need to have evacuation plans and disaster preparedness kits. We must rely less on oil and more on alternative energy, and reduce carbon emissions by any means necessary. We need more preservation of natural resources and less consumption. We cannot continue to provide subsidies to oil and gas companies that are wreaking havoc on our earth. Science matters, and we must educate the next generation on the realities of climate change so we are all working to promote a better, more sustainable future.

I am more committed than ever to work to make the future I want a reality.

Maya Faison, a 16-year old senior at Long Island City High School, is a Global Kids leader.

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13 responses to “In The Wake Of Sandy, A 16-Year Old Climate Activist Speaks Her Mind

  1. When I was 16, i said, “It is coming, It is coming!”
    They said, “You are crazy, You are crazy!”
    I hope she gets less push back.

    When I was 16 we had a reasonable path to sustainability. Today the path is much steeper, .I am not sure the message is any easier to communicate today even when we can point to frank AGW impacts and effect as part of the argument.

  2. Susan Anderson

    Keep up the great work. And never think you are alone. I don’t have much else to offer, but this storm can hopefully affect people the way 9/11 did. Perhaps Obama will be in the clear later tonight, and perhaps he will stop waffling as the evidence pours in that his silence was not the best way to handle reality.

    We all fear with you, as we see evidence beyond our worst fears all too often. But you are NOT alone!

  3. Absolutely. The truth will out–is coming out even now.

    Things are going to be messy, but there is still hope.

  4. It’s a cinch things will get tougher before they get better and the light at the end of the tunnel may be many generations down the road. We’ve lived in an era for the last several decades unequaled in the history of mankind. Plenty of food, abundant cheap energy and most of all a climate to live and thrive in. We’ve enjoyed a life only royalty could have experienced a few centuries ago. Unfortunately, all that is now rapidly changing. I feel really sorry for the youth growing up today because their new 40 will end up being more like our old 60.

    What gives me hope is that there are still some who are coming up in this world which are willing to fight their way through the unpleasant days ahead.

  5. GA Kaminski whatever the relationship between climate change and catastrophic events, to say that for the youth “their new 40 will end up being more like our old 60″ is really a statement too far. The average lifespan of humans across the globe is increasing as advances in medicine, the improved treatment of infectious diseases coupled with the diminished incidence of these diseases and in some cases (think small pox) their eradication, declines in the number of smokers, improvements in the early diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, improved prognosis for cardio-vascular problems plus a host of other advances indicates that lifrespans will increase not diminish Perhaps if climate change does affect the supply of “plenty of food”, this will be a blessing in disguise at least for the Western World as it might reduce the incidence of obesity and disease associated with obesity such as diabetes which is forecast as the major problem for future generations.

    [Response: You just said that if climate change affects the food supply it could be a “blessing in disguise.” I’d say that shows rather clearly just how twisted your thinking is.]

  6. Yes, the average lifespan is increasing across the globe–dramatically so. But the measures responsible are not somehow permanent features of human experience; they are dependent upon technology, social organization, and resources. We can’t count blindly upon any of those three if we are careless with our energy economy–and ‘carelessness’ has long since become ‘recklessness.’

    Global climate change has probably cost tens to hundreds of thousands of lives, and tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to date. (Precise calculations are extremely difficult, due to the difficulty of attribution, but that’s the ballpark you get into if you consider the results of a just a few of the catastrophes we know to be potentially climate-related, such as the 2003 heat-wave, the 2010 heat-wave, various droughts and floods, Katrina and Sandy, and the North American pine bark beetle infestation(s)–even if you discount, say, 70% of the total damage as not being attributable to climate change.)

    That’s the result of .7 degrees C. It hurts, to be sure, but the effects of Sandy on US GDP will be quite limited. They’ll probably be seen in the results for this quarter, and may have a detectable influence over the next year or so by boosting spending for reconstruction. (We’ll see.) The lives lost–124 of them in the US, as I heard reported last night–can’t be replaced, of course, and the personal struggles of those displaced or dispossessed are very sad. But most of the nation, let alone world, won’t be personally affected.

    If we get to 8 C–quite possible by the end of this century, particularly if we don’t start to take the issue seriously–it will be much more than 11.4 times worse. We’ll have serious food supply issues. We’ll have massive displacements of climate refugees. We’ll probably have resource wars–defense establishments around the world have been thinking about these for quite some time now:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Climate-Wars-A-Review

    And of course, we’ll have huge infrastructure issues as well, as the norms to which we have specified our structures shift beyond design parameters. Governor Cuomo is thinking about that latter issue in the wake of Sandy:

    “”Look how fast you can shut down the region, just by shutting town the pumps,” he said, adding that officials must examine what, where and how to rebuild infrastructure so the region is not hampered in the future.”

    http://newyork.newsday.com/westchester/cuomo-sandy-s-ny-tab-to-hit-staggering-33b-1.4200825

  7. It always amazes me how much faith humans have in the indefinite linear extrapolation of the status quo. Whether it is a housing bubble or a a Wall Street Crash, the response reminds me of the guy who fell off of the 100th floor of a skyscraper and was hard to say as he passed the 40th floor, “So far, so gooe.”

  8. No no, he wasn’t gooe until he hit…

  9. I actually said “Perhaps” and made the comment in the context of the obesity epidemic in the Western world. If you think commenting on this epidemic shows twisted thinking, it is apparent you have no idea of the consequences of obesity. If people in the Western world ate considerably less their health would improve dramatically.so on that basis, a reduction in “plenty of food” would be a good thing

    [Response: I noted that you said it *could* be a “blessing in disguise,” so don’t play that semantic game. If you seriously think that there’s any realistic scenario in which climate-induced reduction in the food supply could be a blessing in disguise, then you are so incredibly naive that it almost defies comprehension.

    Your attempt to suggest that I trivialize the obesity problem reinforces the fact that you are light-years away from a reality-based perspective. Both your comment and your lame attempt to excuse it, show how clueless you are.

    You have only one option to recover any shred of credibility: admit that your comment was astoundingly stupid, and promise that in future you’ll shut your mouth until you’ve thought things over very carefully. I doubt you’ll opt for that course.]

  10. “Klaus H. Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said the storm surge from Irene came, on average, just one foot short of paralyzing transportation into and out of Manhattan.

    If the surge had been just that much higher, subway tunnels would have flooded, segments of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and roads along the Hudson River would have turned into rivers, and sections of the commuter rail system would have been impassable or bereft of power, he said.

    The most vulnerable systems, like the subway tunnels under the Harlem and East Rivers, would have been unusable for nearly a month, or longer, at an economic loss of about $55 billion, said Dr. Jacob, an adviser to the city on climate change and an author of the 2011 state study that laid out the flooding prospects.

    “We’ve been extremely lucky,” he said. “I’m disappointed that the political process hasn’t recognized that we’re playing Russian roulette.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/nyregion/new-york-faces-rising-seas-and-slow-city-action.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

    Surprise, surprise. Sandy isn’t any more a surprise than Las Vegas casinos making a profit. Load the climate dice like we and it isn’t a question of whether we lose, just how soon. (October, in case you’re in denial).