This opinion article was originally published in Elkhart High School's The Pennant
In late January, dozens of teens and climate activists gathered at the Indiana Statehouse for the “Time’s Up!” event in order to address the climate crisis and encourage the passing of Senate Bill 255 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 3.
“Time’s Up!” was organized by “Confront the Climate Crisis,” a statewide organization created by concerned Hoosier teens. Various guest speakers, including Sens. Ron Alting, J.D. Ford, and Fady Qaddoura, as well as numerous concerned citizens, gathered to address the need for community change around the state.
Climate change has been an important issue for decades, not only in Indiana, but also the entire world. That’s why it is so critical that bills such as SB 255 are being worked on and initiated—especially since there has been so little progress made in recent years.
“Our ecosystems are shrinking while our earth is warming, and the last seven years on this planet were the hottest seven years ever on record,” said Notre Dame graduate and environmentalist Elsa Barron. “It’s clear that when it comes to our responsibility for stewardship, we are currently failing at the task before us.”
According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, Americans are increasingly seeing the effects of climate change in their communities, and about two-thirds of Americans believe the government needs to work harder to address it.
Another important point brought up at the rally was how exactly this legislation (SB 255 and SCR-3) would help Indiana become more ecologically sound. Both bills were written by numerous high school students who belong to “Confront the Climate Crisis!” but officially authored by Sen. Alting.
“Grassroots still work in this country…Nothing is more important than the air that we breathe and the water we drink,” he told rally participants.
Alting and other speakers stressed the importance of sustainability and the fight for change, and encouraged citizens to become more involved — which is exactly what these bills would do.
SB 255 called for Indiana to establish a task force that will be in charge of developing a climate action plan that will not only enhance statewide economic development but also systemically diminish Indiana’s role in the climate crisis. The bill also required the utility regulatory commission to create a report that would forecast and monitor the number of greenhouse gas emissions Indiana utility companies would create each year from 2022 to 2050.
SCR-3 called for the Indiana General Assembly to recognize that climate change is a grave and prominent problem. Moreover, it asked the assembly to acknowledge “that Indiana’s response to climate change should seek to capitalize on economic development that will combat ‘brain drain,’ achieve better workforce development, enhance quality of place, and create jobs for all Hoosiers.”
Senator Mark Messmer, the chairman of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, denied giving the Senate Legislation a hearing. Messmer later explained in a statement to IndyStar he believes that “the task force bill was redundant because those issues could be addressed in an interim committee or through the 21st Century Energy Policy Task Force.”
Nevertheless, this statement is not entirely true, and the task force has not made any similar plans as to what the Senate Bill entails.
While both bills would have contributed to progressive change in Indiana communities and help them become more eco-friendly, the speakers also stressed the importance of advocacy in both adults and teens.
“Changing the world doesn’t mean changing the globe… One of the main reasons that youth activism is so crucial is because we are the leaders of tomorrow,” said Claire Curran, a sophomore at Brebeuf High School.
This event and campaign was led by Indiana teens — proving that age does not play a factor in whether or not a person can make an impact. Truly, youth activism is just as important as advocacy in adults. Just like Curran said, the youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. Eventually, today’s youth will be the legislators and scientists who will deal with big issues like climate change, so getting involved and becoming informed at a young age is vital.
Another Hoosier teen, Jonathan Siskind, a senior at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, said, “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and we’re the last generation that can do anything to stop it…The best way for us people here at the statehouse and around the world to hear the cries that we’re making today is by organizing, rallying, and showing that we care that this is the kind of issue that we not only vote on, but act on.”
Both Curran and Siskind have done their part to help combat climate change; however, they did not do this alone. Advocacy is critical. It is only through the actions and words of others that a difference can be made in the world. Making a petition, starting an environmental club at school, or even attending a rally like “Time’s Up!” can contribute to immense change. Small actions can have big impacts, and becoming involved in problems like climate change, even just a little bit, can make all the difference in the world.
While climate change continues to harm the globe, it is amazing to see so many Hoosiers help combat it by joining together in support of bills such as SB 255 and SCR-3. Senators and teens alike have so much power to influence others and make the world a better place.
The “Time’s Up!” rally is one of many examples of the extraordinary ways that people have started to take action and become part of the fight to help protect the climate.
“Action is the solution,” Siskind said. “While our campaign is called ‘Confront the Climate Crisis,’ the real crisis is not climate change, it’s not environmental destruction, or the sixth mass extinction—the real crisis is inaction…and the only way to solve the crisis of inaction is action.”