By Kristin Scheer

The news is bleak. By mid-September, wildfires raged in 15 states, taking homes, lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.

The Atlantic hurricane system was so severe we ran out of names for storms using the English alphabet and used the Greek alphabet for only the second time in history. CNN reported that, for the first time, 3 storms were named in a single 24-hour period, and those 3 were actually named in just 6 short hours.

Western Siberia recorded its hottest spring ever. The permafrost under the arctic terrain is caving in the heat. In late May, amidst this thawing, the city of Norilsk suffered its worst environmental disaster when an oil tanker collapsed and spilled over 21,000 tons of oil into the Ambarnaya River.

All the while we are living through the worst worldwide pandemic in over 100 years. By Oct. 10, 36 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide and 1,068,000 million persons had died from the disease; the US had 7 million confirmed cases and 212,989 dead. Deforestation and mass extinction leave us much more vulnerable to epidemics like this.

These crises and more are among the disasters predicted by climate scientists who have sounded alarms for more than 50 years now. And yet here we are. Change is upon us. And we have chosen that change  largely by avoiding, ignoring, and/or denying the evidence.

We still have time to act to avoid some of the worst suffering predicted, and we must! But we need bold action now! We can’t wait for leaders to solve the problem for us. Grass roots must lead the way! Aliya Haq of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “Change only happens when individuals take action. … There is no other way if it does not start with people.”

And we are speaking up! Greta Thunberg’s Friday for the Future protests went global in 2019. Millions of young people joined a climate strike to call for climate action. Worldwide protests engaged people of all ages to raise the stakes for civil disobedience and added a much-needed urgency to policy discussions surrounding climate change. More than 1,200 governments, including 26 national governments, declared climate emergencies in 2019. And a new Green Deal is being discussed in the US.

Add your voice. Contact your elected officials. Tell them you know the climate crisis is real and plan to vote accordingly. If you’ve already contacted them, do it again. Follow your phone call up with a letter. Or follow your letter up with an e-mail. Encourage friends and family to do the same. Get organized! Join others in speaking and taking action.

We will succeed because we must succeed! Our children and grandchildren will reap the rewards and pay the price for what we do and do not do Today. The time is NOW and we have much to accomplish. So let’s get busy! We can create clean jobs and a safe future that will make our kids proud.

—Kristin Scheer, a GreenPeace activist, serves on the PeaceWorks-KC Board.