This is Lauren’s speech for the Climate Summer press conference at City Hall Plaza in Boston.
Before I begin talking to you about climate change, I would like to take a look at past social movements. The abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid struggle, the gay rights movement. I believe that these are all issues of right and wrong. “Is it moral?” is a question central to these movements.
My experiences in Climate Summer have made me realize that individual action is no longer enough to save our planet: we need a movement. It’s Ed Byers wearing his hairnet at Cindy’s Kitchen organizing his community to take action to keep a fossil fuel burning power plant out of Brockton. It’s Susan Fairchild managing a three-year-old farmers market in Medford that draws in thousands of people every week, and it’s Steve Connors and his student corps harvesting and then donating the crops from the Westport Town community garden. This work cannot be done if individuals do not act as if they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves. With this realization comes a unique challenge, because the environmental movement is so much more complicated than any previous social movement. The climate crisis isn’t something that you can point your finger at and say- there’s the culprit. There’s no one bad guy- there are many, many reasons why our climate is changing. Each one of us shares a little bit of the blame for the situation we’ve got ourselves in, which can be pretty tough to swallow. Not to mention that the future we’re facing if we don’t do something, fast, is completely terrifying.
With the environmental movement it’s suddenly much more complicated. We face a distinct challenge in that there is a subtle oppression felt by many in the environmental community that makes individuals who do not fully understand the science of climate change afraid to speak up and take action.
My question to you is: why isn’t this just a moral issue?
Why should understanding the science be a prerequisite for environmental activism? Why don’t we care about our environment in the same way we care about the welfare of our fellow man or woman? Why don’t we see how morally incomprehensible it is that we are destroying what every human being has in common: this planet? Who cares about the science? This is wrong.
I am fully confident standing here and telling you: I don’t completely understand the mechanisms behind ocean acidification or measuring ice cores. Parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is sometimes confuses me. But I know climate change is bad. I know that it’s wrong. And I know that we need to do something about it.
Two weeks ago my team and I rode to Westport Point, Massachusetts. If you’ve never been, please, please go. I wish that everyone could have the week we spent there, have the experiences we had there and meet the people we met there. Westport is a small coastal town at the bottom of the state, where large beaches are juxtaposed to vast and open fields of farmland. I want to try and
convey to you how much beauty and peace and happiness I found in this small community in the 7 short days that we spent there, but I can’t. Words can never be enough. A picture could never be enough, even.
This coastal community that I love so much will be devastated by climate change if the current trajectory continues. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, if ocean levels continue to rise, if the earth’s temperature gets warmer, if we do nothing, Kaitlyn Madara, the 13 year old whose family hosted me and my team at their home for my 20th birthday, will lose her home and her family will loose their livelihood. This tragedy will be repeated over and over again across the community. After riding to Westport and other equally wonderful communities this summer, my continued involvement in this movement is absolutely a moral issue. I speak for myself, and hopefully my fellow riders when I say that finding solutions to the climate crisis is absolutely a moral question, a movement of righting the wrongs we see around us to build a just and stable world.