New Decade, New World

The start of a new year is a time of change. All across the country, first-timers are headed off to fitness centers, nutrition classes, and self-help seminars looking to exercise more, eat healthier, and get better with money. Some students are hitting the books early, resolving to take the rest of the academic year’s grades by storm.

But 2020 is more than just a new year. It’s the start of a new decade and a new chapter for the world in which our actions become more important than ever. In 2019, scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii gathered data on the highest amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) ever recorded at that site. Atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas, is a key contributor to climate change. At the start of the Industrial Revolution, and for much of human history, atmospheric CO2 hovered around 280 parts per million, an amount sufficient to trap enough heat to keep the earth warm and healthy. In 2000, at the beginning of the millennium, that number was already up to 370 parts per million. At 414.7 parts per million, the amount recorded in 2019, scientists estimated that this was the highest level of CO2 found in earth’s atmosphere in three million years.

These are the sort of numbers that make a climate activist’s heart sink. As I write this, fires are raging across Australia, turning night into a fiery red day. My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with stories of animals, normally very wary of humans, embracing rescuers who managed to save them from the destruction. Indigenous people around the globe understand fire in a different way. We know that it can be a cleansing force, a facilitator for rebirth and rejuvenation that awakens the land. We also know that it can be a force of incredible destruction. The same can be said for passion and ambition.

That is why what I propose for 2020 is not just a new year’s resolution, but a new decade’s resolution. All around the world, students are leading the call for climate justice. As institutions of higher learning, tribal colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to become allies in that fight. Let us resolve that this is a decade in which we stand up for the land, the water, and air. Let us resolve that this is a decade in which we stand between our non-human relatives and the forces of destruction. Let us resolve that this is a decade in which we stand with the youth and with the elders. Let us resolve that this is a decade in which we speak for those who cannot, lift the voices of those who often go unheard, and listen to what the land is trying to tell us. Let us resolve that this is a decade when we will work together.

Let us resolve that this decade, things will be different, while holding onto the knowledge of old. A new year, a new decade, a new world. Then let us go out and make it happen.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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