What Does Climate Change Look Like From a Personal Perspective?

“Climate change is bad, and we need to take action to stop it.” 

This sentence has been drilled into our heads ever since we first understood what climate change truly meant. Teachers have given lessons on rising temperatures and the potentially devastating consequences that await if humanity continues to live without regard for our environment. Protests have been organized, demanding action to slow down climate change and better look after our planet. Politicians have proposed legislation focused on implementing strategies into our current society to reduce the number of greenhouse gases we emit drastically. 

But, aside from all the grandiose talk about climate change affecting our atmosphere, what does climate change look like from a personal perspective? Several members of the Poly Prep community have dealt with the natural phenomenon and have seen the devastating effects of extreme weather first-hand. Senior Chris Kollmer recalls living through one of the most significant hurricanes in New York City history: Hurricane Sandy. 

“[Hurricane Sandy] put me and my family out of our home for close to a month,” said Kollmer, adding that, “during the storm, the gas line broke, forcing us to swim over to their neighbors’ in 5 feet of water.” The devastation of Sandy left many families without power, gas, and other essential utilities for days, if not weeks. Families were forced to deal with intense flooding, which ruined homes and left them without places to sleep. 

Moreover, numerous families relocated temporarily while they waited for the remnants of Sandy to pass. In Kollmer’s case, “I had to move into my cousin’s house in Long Island and had to meet all new kids in a completely different environment.” Kollmer highlights that he was forced to make new friends and learn how to better his social skills as Sandy left him and his family in a new neighborhood where they knew no one. 

With all the stories heard about displaced families and extreme weather ruining lives, there should be a greater sense of urgency in tackling climate change. History teacher and director of service-learning Elijah Sivin shared his thoughts on the world’s severe weather problem. When it comes to solving the issue of climate change and wondering why there has been little to no action taken to combat it, he blames it on the mentality people have when they think about extreme weather: “We tend to look at climate change as a long-term problem and as such, think that we can put off taking any action for some time.” 

In Sivin’s eyes, society does not think of climate change as the urgent problem that is affecting our world at this very moment. A collective acceptance of extreme weather as a problem for the future has resulted in insufficient action taken to address it.