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Activism

Travelling to Raise Awareness on Climate Change

Leah Schick December 13, 2017

When I reached the top of the mountain, I was greeted by the most breathtaking sight in my life: thousands of feet below was Aurlandsfjord, one of Norway’s many fjords. On the opposite side of this sparkling inlet of ocean water lay snow capped peaks, clusters of lush greenery, and some of the longest waterfalls in the world. I closed my eyes and listened to the peaceful silence as a cloud passed through where my family and I were standing – I felt like I was on top of the world. Beneath my joy, however, I wistfully realized that even beautiful places like the fjords will eventually suffer from the consequences of global warming.

During our trip, we met many people who call Norway their home. Whether they were selling food or handmade items in Norheimsund, renting spaces in their homes to visitors in Ulvik, or taking us on boat tours in Flam, the Norwegians we encountered were proud of their homeland. I was struck by the profound appreciation Norwegians have for their country’s beauty and natural resources. They consider themselves advocates for the environment and care about the welfare of others.

I have always seen the value in caring for the environment – I recycle as much as possible, opt for paper over plastic at grocery stores, and properly dispose of trash on the ground. However, seeing dozens of windmills and hydropower plants that provide clean energy in Norway made me even more aware of the lack of effort Americans take to protect the earth. Despite being abundant in oil and natural gas, Norway is at the forefront of the green energy solutions movement. In 1972, Norway established a cabinet-level group in their government to address environmental issues. The cabinet’s environmental protection policies aim to reduce air pollution, preserve uninhabited land, and protect marine life. Sadly, Norway is still affected by global warming – the country’s location is vulnerable to pollution from other parts of Europe.

Why am I so passionate about climate change awareness? At first, it was because I grew up with a family that values environmental protection. Now, I care even more deeply because I have seen many beautiful areas around the world suffer from pollution. I have seen the stunning glaciers of Alaska that have retreated several miles due to unnaturally high temperatures. I have seen endangered sea turtles in Florida that needed surgery because of trash they swallowed. I listened as Norwegians expressed anxiety about rising sea levels flooding their coastal towns, about their landscapes changing due to little snow in recent years.

Visiting these incredible places helped me understand what we have to lose if more people don’t protect the earth. My experiences showed me that giving Americans more opportunities to travel can increase our society’s awareness about how climate change impacts the environment. The EU’s Working Time Directive mandates every employee is entitled to 3 weeks paid vacation every year; perhaps being able to interact with their environment is why many Europeans care about it. Rather than reading about global warming, seeing the effects of climate change left a stronger impact.

When we worry about exams and rush between classes, our waterfalls and oceans remain; when we worry about other problems, our mountains are still standing. No matter what happens in our lives, we’re still responsible for protecting the planet. For the sake of Earth’s future, travelling should be accessible to everyone. Standing on top of that mountain, I could only hope more Americans will one day have the chance to see the Fjords and feel just as inspired to preserve the beauty of nature.