One year ago, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and set off one of the largest slow-motion catastrophes in the history of America.
It was a disaster larger than Katrina. It was a disaster that looms especially large in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which tore through and swamped the Carolinas. It was a disaster that President Trump likes to pretend never happened, claiming that the thousands of people who lost loved ones are lying.
And my generation is listening.
Hurricane Maria was amplified by a changing climate that causes warmer oceans and allows storms to hold more water, causing more destructive floods. The average sea temperatures are now four degrees higher than the average from 1961-1990. Puerto Rico was especially vulnerable — and it’s still vulnerable today.
My heart – and much of my family – still lives in Puerto Rico. I visited them last summer before the storm. After Maria hit, it took three weeks for me to learn if they were even alive. Unlike the families of thousands of other people, they made it through.
Today I live in Miami, another place touched by climate change. We narrowly dodged a storm last year, and it’s only a matter of time until the city takes a direct hit.
We may not have long to wait. At the current rate of sea-level rise, Miami will some day sink into the ocean. High tides already cause flooding in parts of the city. Despite this, many of our political leaders pretend that nothing is happening.
Sometimes, this problem can seem too big. How do you fight back when the planet is changing around you? But while our leaders might pretend otherwise, we already know the solutions. We need to dramatically reduce our level of climate pollution, and we need to do it now.
That’s why I’m making my voice heard through the political system this year. Too often, people see an imperfect world and turn away, choosing to stay uninvolved. But the stakes are simply too high. We need to choose leaders who will take action on climate change. Will you join your voice with mine?
Christian Acevedo is an 18-year-old Cuban and Puerto Rican-American resident of Miami. Learn more about his story at BeAClimateVoter.org