By Kermit Hovey

There is good news. We can follow worthy examples that have been set and set examples worthy of following.

Many of our youth have gotten the message on climate change. They have learned the science and the evidence. Climate change is really happening, really serious, really human-caused, and we can still really do something about it.

Many of those same youth have learned critical thinking skills. For example, they recognize that if 99 out of 100 doctors tell you “you should get your cancer treated” and one says “never mind, it’s a hoax,” you really should do something about that cancer.

Many youth around the worldd have taken that message, applied their critical thinking skills, and done something about the “it” of climate change.

You may know about high-profile media superstars like Greta Thunberg challenging the grownups in the room to act boldly against climate change. You may know about mass movement protest events such as the Youth Climate Strike of March 15, 2019, which amplified that message in the streets of Madison and around the globe. You may know about national organizations such as the Sunrise Movement channeling the efforts of young people across the country to press us all to act now against climate change.

You should also know about Daphne Wu, a junior at Middleton High School. She persistently and passionately educates, mobilizes, and advocates here in our own backyard. Here’s what she had to say in a recent profile piece:

“I felt like my school district had a gap in environmental responsibility and education, so I started a Green Team in my high school and I also started the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee [DCYC] which consists of over 30 students across Dane County. Green Team and DCYC both do a lot of environmental projects and do many, many, many things to try and help and better our environment.”

I have had the privilege to know Daphne through our shared work on the Middleton Sustainability Committee. She has impressed me with her unflagging perseverance. In particular, she spearheaded an effort over many months to get the Middleton–Cross Plains Area School District to pass a sustainability resolution. Despite obstacles — including what we hope is a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic — her efforts were successful: The district board passed the resolution at its March 22 meeting.

The resolution acknowledges important truths, including that “climate change and environmental destruction is considered the biggest issue youth and future generations will face.” It commits the district to, among other things, establishing “goals to meet 100% of all district operations energy needs with renewable energy by 2035.”

We owe it to ourselves, to our youth, and to the examples they have set to each do our part. We of older generations especially shouldn’t leave solving the climate crisis to our youth and to future generations. We should at minimum follow their lead and their example when they try.

We should look wider and stretch further to take our responsibility for addressing the climate crisis. We should demand that the government implement policies such as putting a price on carbon that will motivate a shift to clean energy across the economy. We should demand that corporations and financial institutions stop expanding fossil fuel pipelines and other infrastructure that ultimately wastes money and increases pollution.

Because this crisis has emerged under our watch as adults, we are more responsible. Because we are adults, we are more able. Because we are more responsible and able, for all of our sakes we must do even more for the climate.

Whether we support others’ calls for action or ourselves call for action, we can follow worthy examples that have been set and set examples worthy of following.

An earlier version of this post appeared in the March 11, 2021, edition of the Middleton Times Tribune.