Photo taken by NCAP staff at a youth climate rally in Eugene, OR in 2019.
(By Eugene Davis, Community Outreach Assistant)
Many college students, myself included, have had one of those moments where we realized that if our generation does not take a massive stride in mitigating the effects of climate change, the world will become a drastically harder place in which to live. When I was younger, I used to have a very cynical perspective on the issue. I would say to myself, “It looks like this is just going to be the reality of the world. It’s not like someone with as little influence as myself can do anything to change it.” As I met other students in my first year at the University of Oregon, I began to realize that a lot of other people had these same types of defeatist thoughts.
It wasn’t until I started taking classes around environmental sustainability and meeting more determined students that I realized I had been looking at the issue the wrong way for years. One person might not be able to make a large scale shift, but by creating a coalition of young climate activists, we have a shot at rolling back negative environmental impacts.
When we think about the climate crisis, we often go straight to the large steps that need to be taken to cut global carbon emissions, without considering steps that can have a smaller, incremental effect. Organizations such as NCAP promote these steps. Cutting down on synthetic, fossil fuel-based pesticide use reduces emissions while also creating a cleaner water supply, more sustainable farming structure and a healthier ecosystem. Pesticide-free, no-till agricultural soil is better able to sequester carbon. By using pesticide alternatives, we can better protect those who are the most susceptible to climate change by ensuring that food and water supplies are safe and clean. Reducing pesticide use also protects those who make a living off of the soil, such as our local farmers and farm workers. Although the climate crisis has already shown us how destructive it can be, doing what we can to reduce pesticide use will protect our land and soften the blow of the climate crisis.
One of my goals during my time at the University of Oregon is to contribute to building a student coalition around environmental protection. This has been difficult at the moment, and I understand the reluctance of students to engage in extracurricular activities at a time where it feels hard enough to log into Zoom class, much less join a group of climate activists. Although planning events for student engagement has been altered due to the coronavirus, I have been pleasantly surprised at the networks that the University of Oregon has built for students to engage with each other to collectively contribute to building a sustainable future.
Many of these students hold the same goals in mind as we do here at NCAP, and there are great opportunities to share our insight with young adults through student-run programs such as the community garden. By giving these students the resources and information that NCAP provides, we can teach the importance of sustainable farming and demonstrate the effectiveness of alternatives to pesticides to young adults. Finding a way to connect young people to pesticide alternatives is simply one more tool in the fight for protecting the Pacific Northwest from the harmful ecological effects of climate change.