The sun shone from between the clouds, warmth permeating across the velvet skies in golden hues, reflecting off the glistening dew drops of the morning. I took in a deep breath of the crisp air and oxygen filled my lungs, energizing my body and clearing my mind. I sensed the sweet flowers amidst the scent of freshly fallen rain and stopped to take in the scenery. My eyes caught a frenzy of feathers dashing in and out of trees, and the sweet chirping of birds rang throughout the neighborhood. The grass felt soft, tickling the edges of my feet as I stood, watching the world slowly come to life. It was here that I felt most alive. Surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of nature.

 It breaks my heart to say that everything has changed.

Disease and famine grip the nation as record-breaking temperatures sweep the country in hot and cold extremities. Species after species face extinction, and habitat degradation is at an all-time high. Inequality, poverty, and human rights are on the line. Everyone is affected. Everything is at stake. Then why do we not act? 

We have known about the climate crisis for over sixty years. We have the science, we have the solutions. We know what is causing it and how we can change it. Yet we do nothing. Sixty years of empty promises. Robert Swan once said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” We have waited sixty years for things to change. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Protecting the home we love is the moral duty of each and every one of us. How will you make a difference? Today I will ask questions because we already have the answers. 

In the past few years, I have witnessed the sky change from shades of vibrant blue to charred grays, ashes coating the surface of the window I could once see so clearly through. I have felt the unrelenting heat of summers far hotter than they were ever meant to be, and I have understood the importance of fighting the climate crisis, especially in communities that are disproportionally affected. What was once a basic necessity has become a scarcity. We are engineering our own extinction.

Yet we go through our days as if they are not numbered. What will it take for society to wake up? To realize that we are hurtling through space on this tiny rock we call home, closer and closer toward our self-imposed destruction. I was 11 years old when I stood up to make change and four years later, I sit here still writing, still pleading with you to care. Imploring you to question; how much smoke will it take? How many days will we have to hold our breath, waiting for the air to clear? Waiting for action to be taken? Waiting for our world to come together to finally extinguish this fire? Our world is burning in the flame of ignorance. We must ask. How many lives will be taken? How many species will go extinct? How much will our ecosystems suffer before we realize that the consequences of our actions are permanent? Irreversible. Forever. 

I cannot stand by and watch my home burn. An old indigenous proverb states, “Only when the last tree is cut down, the last fish caught, and the last river poisoned, will we realize that money cannot be eaten.” How long will we prioritize profit over our planet? My ancestors grew up playing in the lap of Mother Earth. My children may not be able to. I don’t want to be the one to tell them we left them no future. That while having the chance we did not take it. We cannot let this happen. 

I have grown up too fast, learning the stark reality of the situations we are in, carrying the weight of changing the world on my young shoulders. I long to go back to the times when the end was something out of a sci-fi novel, a dystopian world out of reach. The stories I read were never meant to intersect with the life I lived. But I am writing this because they did. If we do not act now, destruction will be inevitable. The end is in sight, but so is a new beginning. Our children can grow up in the beautiful world we remember. We still have time to create the promise of tomorrow. We still have time to change. It’s our choice.

What will you choose?

Arushi Agarwal is a Washington Field Representative and student at Skyline High School, passionate about youth involvement and making a difference in the world. From a young age, she has loved painting – and after years of picking out shades of vibrant blues and greens, she finds herself conflicted between the world she remembers and the world she often sees – one of smoky, charred grays. Climate justice is not just a passion, but a necessity, and she feels an urgency toward this cause. Apart from Our Climate, Arushi has been dancing for several years, is her school’s ASB Secretary, and is a member of Sustainability Ambassadors – a local non-profit. When she’s not spending time outdoors, you can find her caught up in a debate, hanging out with friends, or snuggling with a good book.