Dec. 7th, 2022
by Mariah Rosensweig
Sometimes I don’t breathe. I hold my breath, hoping that by the time I run out of oxygen, we will have figured out how to repair our relationship to the natural world. I’ve been told I shouldn’t hold my breath, that “saving the planet” has been happening for generations. The truth is, my generation and I are scared that soon the only air we’ll have to breathe will be polluted.
So I try to breathe deeply while I can–but often, I forget how.
I should correct myself; it’s not that I forget how to breathe, but rather I forget to make it a conscious effort as I get caught up in busy, everyday obligations. Our breathing happens automatically (thank goodness), but when I become aware of my breathing, I suddenly become attuned to my connection with the world around me.
I invite you, wherever you are right now, to take a breath in–
fill your lungs to their full capacity,
Hold it for a moment
and release the air out.
What kind of air are you breathing?
How does it taste?
I notice that I don’t want to be taking in a full breath because the air around me is contaminated with gasoline or smog from a collection of hot, dry days that are now common in Colorado. Taking a breath, I realize that the outside world becomes what is within me. How often do we realize that the air flowing through our lungs was created by the trees surrounding us? Our student-led group, DPS Students for Climate Action was directly driven by this urgency to repair our relationship with the Earth, advocating for our Climate Action Policy which the DPS School Board has since adopted. What began as advocacy within our own lives created a policy directly influencing district-wide decisions with tangible impact.
In the coming years, we will continue holding the district accountable to its actions. Our organization will continue creating a network for sustainability clubs to engage in the Sustainability Management Plan, empowering students to lead the charge toward a livable future.
We will hold a workshop this spring, led by students, for students. We will connect with each other and share valuable resources to lead the charge on climate action and environmental justice, ultimately reaching our goals as a community of students, parents, and staff across DPS.
As East High School’s Indigenous People’s United describes,
“We collectively share common ground in our treatment of [Earth]. There is ongoing activism for the environment in our community, as there are numerous attacks on our land, sacred spaces, and tribal sovereignty. We appreciate the sustainability club taking measures and pushing to address these environmental issues at a local level and being considerate of the land of the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute, and Natives of other tribal Nations. We look forward to future collaborations, reaching the community as a whole.”
Together we can uplift and address the needs most specific to our communities. Students have found creative ways to engage everyone in climate action. Gabriel Nagel, a leader of our organization, developed Change Carbon, an app that helps us as individuals become aware of our actions. Download it and complete engaging challenges to reduce your carbon footprint.
Too many of us, maybe even all of us, are burnt out. I’ve taken a key lesson on managing workload from nature: When honey bees cluster in a swarm, they align themselves in a way that no bee has to carry more than four bees even though the have the strength to carry 35 others. They share the load.
For students, we can distribute and share the workload in a way that functions for us and creates balance in our lives. For adults, staff of DPS, the goal of this plan is to make your jobs easier while leaving a wake of a better world through your efforts. Distributing work this way will help us all to breathe, literally and metaphorically.
I know I’m not alone in a vision of a better world, one that we are in a prime position to create together. Never underestimate the power your voice has. Take a breath. Fully in– and fully out. You are powerful. And you have the power to ensure that we can breathe clean air far into the future.
Mariah Rosensweig is a senior at East high school, a leader of DPS Students for Climate Action and a Beekeeper. She encourages you to share this article with youth in your life.
Reach Mariah and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org