By Domingo Cortinez, EarthEcho International
Voting is hard.
And even more so if you’re a college freshman. Students need to order our vote-by-mail ballots almost two months before the election, all while juggling our first-year class schedules and the anticipation that comes before leaving for college.
And yet, being a first-time voter is exciting. It represents an opportunity for generational change, and it confirms that my voice and my beliefs matter. While it is always important, this year, voting feels more urgent than ever.
No matter your political beliefs, this election is one for the future. The outcome determines whether Americans will allow our environment to decline or embrace solutions to mitigate the climate crisis.
Scientists say we have about 10 years to reduce our carbon emissions to avoid a climate catastrophe. And even then, the IPCC states that “many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped.”
As an 18-year-old, it’s kind of scary. Everything seems to be on the line, especially the climate. We’re already seeing the climate crisis affect our world as we watch hurricanes strengthen and low-lying coastal areas face dangerous flooding caused, in part, by rising sea levels.
Still, there’s this idea that the climate crisis is only affecting polar bears and far-away jungles. We have to remember that the climate crisis primarily affects humans.
The Earth will remain for centuries to come. It’s our communities that we have to worry about disappearing. And it’s an environmental justice issue that will disproportionately affect certain populations in the short term.
Growing up in Miami, I’ve witnessed the intersection of the environmental, social, and financial challenges caused by the climate crisis: the subtle displacement of Hispanic and Haitian communities on increasingly coveted higher ground, and the burden on low-elevation communities from the rising costs of flood insurance.
Voting, for me, is an opportunity to fix these challenges. In the melting pot of Latin Americans that is Miami, not everyone has the ability to vote — including my father. It’s up to those of us who have the privilege to vote to do so. This election is a vote for everyone in the world who doesn’t have a say about how best to cope with the threats from the warming planet.
Scientists understand the forces driving the climate crisis and they know how to slow and possibly reverse the rising temperature. The policy solutions, however, are not resolved. We need a government that can use science to create the climate policy our world requires. The U.S. needs to be a leader in the global efforts against the climate crisis.
Now is the time to be a climate voter. Climate matters. This election matters. Your vote matters.
Miami native Domingo Cortinez is a Youth Leadership Council Member at environmental NGO EarthEcho International. He is also a member of The CLEO Institute’s Climate Speakers Network and a member of the genCLEO youth group. He is a first-year student at the University of Chicago.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.