Students in Ohio State’s “Religion and Environmental Values in America” course composed statements to President Biden and other world leaders on the eve of the Leaders Summit on Climate, to share their values, visions, and hope. Ohio State students are diverse and like Ohioans, provide a demographic mirror of the United States; they also represent our future. They have already studied the climate change statements of many world religions, and often wonder: if the world’s religions strongly advocate for action to address climate change, why has the world not acted more decisively? They have chosen to send a collective statement based on their knowledge, speaking from their hearts, to encourage world leaders and President Biden to act on these key values.
A foremost concern of the students is for justice for vulnerable peoples, followed by accountability on the part of leaders, industries, and citizens. They are concerned about ecological degradation, which especially harms the poor, and have a fierce sense of urgency about the need to take bold action; they are dubious of hollow promises from politicians who are apparently weak in protecting people by comparison to industry and corporations who seem to run (and pollute) the world. They appeal to spiritual values and virtues, recognizing the call to stewardship and care, and the need to heal relationships between peoples and the planet. They are concerned for racial equity and equality, for future generations, for renewing connections with nature, and they recognize the importance of science and education to complement the values that compel us to act. The voices of the students speak best:
As a college student, I look out into the world and am told I am the future. My voice wants to be heard; the world is ready for new leaders! But what if there is no future?…What we must rely on is hope; hope that our leaders are doing all that they can in order to better the environment as stewards of God, that the world’s vulnerable are being taken care of in the face of pollution, and that businesses partner with the environment rather than fight it. – Maura O’Connor
Above all, I think about how history books centuries from now will judge us for our addiction to fossil fuels, when we were gravely warned of the implications of our actions but chose the economy over science, our future, and our planet….The time to act is now, and it will take nothing less than a collective effort from every nation on Earth to change the bleak prognosis for future generations. – Cade Cushman
I, a young Black woman who has seen first hand the effects of systemic environmental racism within America, am asking you to recognize and uplift the voices, stories, and experiences of the Black, Brown, Indigenous, Poor, and young activists that are leading the movement of creating greener and healthier communities.There is power in empathy, conversation, and creating space to listen to and recognize experiences that are different than your own, with the future of the wellness and safety of our communities and the natural environment at stake, it’s no longer enough for you to offer us a seat at the table, but rather, it’s time for you to recognize our work and follow the lead of the community leaders and grassroots organizations that are fighting for the future of our shared earth. – Kira Jones
I should not have to ask world leaders to care about the planet, just as students my age have been begging the same question for over 50 years. But here I am, asking–begging– for you to take the shared values, morals, and responsibilities each person reading this holds, and care. – Grace Keller
Dear Leaders, Greedy corporations will try to sway you with money, but you can’t buy a legacy. Companies that corrupt your voice are not invisible to us; we see the ways they are killing entire communities with drought, cancer, and famine….We are not stupid, and we rely on you for help. Please help slow climate change, create opportunities for less fortunate communities, and break the cycle of poverty and pollution for so many people in this world. Thank you. – Valerie Kronson
I want to have hope for our future, but as every climate summit passes my hope fades. I urge world leaders to give me hope again. – Ethan Shun
To see the entire collection of the students’ written statements, click here.