Earth Day reflections from the next generation

This week we're featuring essays from Houston-area eighth graders to hear what the youth think about the state of our planet.

HOUSTON — In honor of Earth Day 2024, EHN is publishing letters from eighth grade students at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School in the Houston-area neighborhood of Spring Branch, Texas.

English educators Cassandra Harper and Yvette Howard incorporated the environment into a series of lessons in December last year. Each student conducted their own research to begin drafting letters to EHN about their concerns or hopes. EHN reporter Cami Ferrell visited their classrooms to share information about her personal reporting experiences in Houston.

The collection of letters, some of which were lightly edited, do not represent the opinions of YES Prep Northbrook or EHN, but are offered here as a peek into the minds of children and their relationship with environmental issues.

Mario Ramos

children climate change

Is climate change really an issue? Some people might think not, so I am writing to discuss my

opinion on climate change and why we should do more to prevent it. The purpose of this letter is to call attention to the effect that climate change and pollution has on minority communities. I would like to discuss this issue because climate change is having a major effect on minority communities, specifically the Hispanic community, and as a Hispanic (person), that makes this a personal issue.

Refineries are usually built around minority communities. Now normally you wouldn’t think that this is a bad thing, right? Well, unfortunately, it is very much a problem. You see, refineries, specifically ones that work with crude oil, tend to release emissions. Some emissions are discharges of harmful chemicals released into the air, especially from the production of gas.Communities that have refineries built around or close to them, tend to see more illnesses related to gas emissions. Early death, heart attacks, respiratory disorders, stroke and asthma, are all illnesses that are commonly found in communities close to refineries.

Fifth Ward, a neighborhood in Houston, has a history of cancer clusters because of the water being contaminated by toxic waste left over from wood treatment operations.* I have a family that lives in Fifth Ward, and it might just be me but I don’t like the idea of my family getting cancer from the water.

If you live in Houston, you know that the heat is no joke. My dad works in the labor field, as do many other Hispanic people, and they spend hours a day working in the intense heat. I am disappointed. I am Hispanic and I don’t want my people to suffer these diseases and cancers just because we as humans can’t take care of the environment. And this can be personal to any other person of color because, unfortunately, minorities aren’t offered desk jobs away from the heat, or make enough.

Student longing for winter

youth climate

During the 2010s, my age was only a digit. That one digit in my age made me feel a sense of joy for almost anything winter related.

It was second grade, and I could barely sleep because of all the excitement that I had bundled up in me. It was going to snow the very next morning. As soon as I wake up to go to school, I immediately go outside. The snow softly falling into my hands, it felt like I was in a movie. I was so excited that I even started to eat some of the snow. I felt so joyful for just tiny little frozen water crystals. It felt like it was really December, the December I’ve always wanted to explore and experience, the December that brought me happiness for a kid so young.

But where did that go?

Years passed after the snow of second grade, and it barely ever came back. I wanted it to come back. It has only been at least 3 years since it snowed here, and the joy from that was only temporary, it only lasted for that one day. I’m still waiting for it. 3 years and I’m starting to lose hope for it to come back.

Why isn’t it coming back to me and everyone else?

Greenhouse gas emissions trap the heat around our atmosphere, not letting even a single snowflake fall. I’m starting to think that I might even wait 5 years just for at least a few snowflakes.

It’s gone now.

The winter that I have always wanted.

Katherine Gomez

youth climate change

I want to express my worry about climate change. In today's time it has been the hottest it has ever been and will continue to be. The Arctic is melting which is causing change around the world. In February 2021, Texas was hit by a cold wave that had 700 deaths and cost billions in economic damage. There was a fire in Spring Branch Texas that burnt for days. During this time ash fell from the sky for days and people were concerned for their health as they could not escape it, even inside. This should not happen again.

This issue keeps on happening, but people continue to ignore climate change and it has gotten worse over the years. People expect climate change to disappear or be taken care of. There are people around the globe who are affected, my own community is having to deal with this. My hope is thin for our future generations because of our carelessness now, unless we start caring.

We can start by bicycling to get around places and save more energy or use less than necessary at our homes. Then comes bigger steps where we must adapt by turning to renewable energy. There are new developments of batteries that store renewable energy and capture carbon dioxide from power plants to either store underground or turn into valuable products like gasoline. This is our future. It will make a change for the better.

The actions we take now are our future, so we can pretend climate change is not an issue or take a stand now. Generations of kids– and mine- are in your hands. It might seem difficult or even inevitable, but it is not. Even the miniscule of actions, like writing a letter, is worth everything.

Jose Sotomayor

youth climate change

We all have heard of problems like: violence and inflation, but a problem that I haven't heard talked about much is climate change. As a resident of Houston, Texas I am really concerned how people don't really know about this dangerous situation the planet is facing. I live in a city where the air quality is horrible because of all the gasses being freed into the area from the refineries surrounding the city. Most people think we are safe from climate change, but we aren't because it is slowly affecting our health. Which is why I'm writing this letter to inform you about the dangers of climate change and how we can solve them.

Another thing to think about is that Texas has a lot of diversity when it comes to natural areas as it has a coast, canyons, and flat grasslands; reading this you may think of a beautiful place full of animals and nature; however, that's not the case. In the nearby city of Galveston there is one of most touristic beaches in Texas, but because all the factories and refineries around the water have become extremely dirty and the sand has a lot of trash from people around the city.

It may seem like we are too late, but we aren't, thanks to the technology we are developing scientists have found new ways to make things we all use. For example, electric cars are a new way to help the planet as it doesn't burn fuel that liberates smoke which is one of the major causes of climate change. All these things show that we as a community can make a big impact on the environment and that we still have hope to fix the damage we have caused.

It's sad seeing how human pollution and abuse of resources is affecting the Earth rapidly, it's sad thinking that our future generations will face the consequences of our actions if we don't stop living the way we do now. The Earth is heating up and multiple disasters are coming with it, but it is still not too late. What people don't realize is that we as normal people can make a significant change.

Hector Guerrero

youth environmental issues

The Earth is a beautiful place, but we are ruining it with issues that are unspoken. If climate change goes unspoken for too long, we are going to do more damage than we have already done. We could at least try to keep it from worsening

Climate change is a huge problem. If we do not try to prevent it everyone could be at risk. People who work outdoors are more likely to get ill from the temperature. In Houston, this affects my Latino community because they mostly do outdoor jobs. Factories and refineries are adding to the problem of climate change, they produce (emissions) that get trapped in the atmosphere that heat the earth. This is going to impact the future of many kids who will grow up in a world where the heat can be unbearable. Climate change is affecting the weather around us; back in 2021, there was snow that was not supposed to be in this city. Because we were not prepared for snow, many people lost their lives because of climate change.

Climate change also fuels natural disasters and they become more dangerous. As a result, there will be more deaths and injured people in the hospital. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It affects not only the environment, but also human health, economies, and communities. The evidence is clear: our planet is warming at an alarming rate, with grave consequences. Climate change will also affect animal lives and could cause animals to go extinct.From more frequent and severe natural disasters to food and water shortages, the impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world.

We all must address this issue. We can start by making simple changes in our lives like using renewable energy, planting more trees, and cleaning up plastics and trash. This can cause damage to our economy and the environment around us. Switching to renewable sources would not only be more beneficial, but it will also slow climate change and provide more options that do not emit gas. Furthermore, fossil fuels are limited unlike renewable energy that can be used multiple times.

As a student growing up, I do not want to get an outside job in the future and have an elevated risk of getting ill because of climate change that we caused in the past. We must all act to stop climate change before it gets worse, and humanity could cease to be productive.

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