By Sydney Dedrick

Do you have a point you’d like to make or an issue you feel strongly about? Submit a letter to the editor or a guest column.

I am 16 years old; this is my speech from the Bend High Environmental Walkout:

More than 14 billion tons. That’s how much garbage we dumped into our oceans just last year alone and yet many of us still rely on plastic products such as disposable utensils and coffee lids and put our plastic wrapped food into plastic bags in the checkout line. But that’s not all; according to NASA, atmospheric ratios of carbon dioxide, a natural heat trapper, have increased by nearly 100 parts per million above its previous highest record set more than 300,000 years ago. This unprecedented spike of carbon has already raised the net temperature of our Earth by 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit and will continue to rise. And yet still some of our elected officials refuse to accept that climate change exists. Our Earth is being slowly suffocated by our own carbon waste that sweeps across our atmosphere like a plague and yet humankind seems to prefer to turn a blind eye rather than to face the fact that we are in a fight for not only the well-being of our planet but our own lives as well.

Some people think that the movement toward a healthier Earth is bigger than themselves, that their attempts to become more eco friendly are insignificant — just a fraction of a percent, but we cannot afford to think like that. Any attempts you make to reduce your carbon footprint are significant and will be vital to the survival of our planet; don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. One person doing the right thing can influence countless numbers of their peers to put the Earth first as well. If we move forward towards a green future as one unified force, we will be unstoppable.

Climate change is not a partisan issue; It is a matter of our safety and that of our planet. However, many elected officials who refuse to acknowledge the truth have divided America over the reality of climate change­ — making facts seem like opinions. Well guess what? Our planet doesn’t have time for their reluctance to make major legislative climate reform. There is no time for petty division when we’re facing a universal threat. We demand unified change now. The time for gradualism is far behind us.

So you want change? You want a future where coral reefs are more than just old legends, our coasts are protected from astronomical hurricanes, and we don’t have to worry about countless unpredictable droughts hindering our city’s water supplies? Take initiative by getting involved! Raise awareness by volunteering at an environmental organization. Teach your kids about the importance of treating our planet with respect. Write to our elected officials about the urgency of combating climate change now so its effects won’t snowball into a logistical nightmare. Even just shutting off lights, faucets and unplugging devices when they are not in use and carpooling will make a difference. Buy local, reusable goods and support renewable energy. Convince your families, employers, friends and peers that we are more than just a fraction of a percent. Show them that they could become a part of the driving force to combat climate change.

While mankind may be the root cause of the plague that brought about climate change, we can also be the vaccine by supporting movements toward renewable energy and reusable products. Bravery is the act of defending that which we love most; and no matter who you are, the Earth is your home — your only home. It would be cowardly to step back and simply be a bystander while carbon tears our home to shreds. According to U.N. scientists, we only have 11 years to drastically reduce our carbon output if we wish to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, so none of us can afford to be idle — act as if your life depends on it because in reality — it does.

— Sydney Dedrick lives in Bend.