I’ve never been called an activist.

I’m a scientist. An engineer. A grad student. But an activist? Definitely not.

I work on solar cells, and for a long time I thought that was enough. I thought that technology was the answer to everything, that if we could just make better solar cells, taller wind turbines, and cheaper electrons, we could stop climate change. If only.

I know now that technology is not enough. The bottleneck today isn’t electrons; it’s elections. It’s politicians doing politics. It’s Congress refusing to talk about climate change. It’s our elected officials making noises about solving problems while discounting the future of the world beyond the next election. I still work on the technology, but I no longer count on it. The problem before was that I wasn’t scared enough. I didn’t know enough to be scared. Now I know. And now I’m terrified.

Climate change isn’t Al Gore giving a PowerPoint presentation. It’s not scientists looking for funding. It’s not you or me or BP or Shell or China. It’s all of us. Climate change is a slow march toward a more dangerous, more uncertain future; a future of rising seas and expiring species, of hotter summers and stronger storms; a future in which those who gained the least will suffer the most. If time is a river, we’re sending our s*** downstream and washing our hands clean. And if our generation doesn’t do something about it, the next generation may not be able to.

So for today, for tomorrow — for however long it takes to solve the climate crisis — go ahead: call me an activist. I won’t mind.

- Joel Jean, 25, USA

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