In December of 2017, we watched the biggest fire in California state history engulf and leave Santa Barbara charred. We watched it, breathed the ash and smoke. Some of us evacuated, and after returning, did not have a home left standing.
2020 was the hottest year on record in every part of the United States. In all the tragedy and grief of 2020: COVID-19, police brutality, and political violence — the last year was a moment of pain for the planet too. It can, and it will, only get worse.
From the perspective of a 24-year-old, in what I hope to be a long life, I wonder about the livability of this planet and the security of my future. I wonder, with fear and anxiety and sometimes pure panic.
I would like to believe in the sincerity of Joe Biden’s commitment to meaningfully address the urgent issue of the climate crisis. The current rate of the crisis is unsustainable — droughts, extreme heat, record wildfires — a pledged top priority of the Biden administration.
His “Build Back Better” plan is not just a rapid reduction of carbon emissions, but a job-creating blueprint to rebuild the United States and West Coast with green infrastructure and transportation, with economic equity and environmental justice.
We will hold him to those commitments, and push his plan further to match the speed and scale of national transformation required to meet the challenge of the climate crisis. The next decade will be a race against the carbon clock, but I’m hopeful in our ability to rise to the occasion.
Editor’s note: Nikayla Jefferson is a UCSB graduate student, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement, and a fellow at the Op-Ed Project and the Yale Program on Climate Change.