“Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: Either we stop it — or it stops us. It’s time to say: enough.”
— Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General
From cars, buildings, and streetlights, to home appliances, cell phones or a favorite video game, no matter how quiet we get, there always seems to be a buzz surrounding us. This buzz is the hum of energy working to power the planet, and it’s only getting louder. As our global population grows and the world becomes increasingly industrialized, energy is needed everywhere.
But this is not without challenges. First and foremost, we are running out of fossil fuels, the primary source of energy for more than a century. You may ask, what exactly are fossil fuels? Oil, coal, and natural gas are all examples of these nonrenewable resources formed from fossilized remains of ancient life, which forms another huge concern. The organic matter that these fuels are made of is high in carbon, which when burned, emits that carbon into the atmosphere, polluting our air and creating health risks.
Fossil fuels are not the only available form of energy. If you look around, chances are you will see something that could be used to power your home. Wind, water, plants, and the sun are all great sources of renewable energy that can reduce our carbon footprint. In the past, technological and economic concerns limited possibilities for renewable energy, but these obstacles are rapidly disappearing. In response to new developments and advancements, solar and wind power prices have become more competitive, as fossil fuel prices continue to rise.
Countries are enacting bold plans to seize this opportunity and shift toward renewable energy. China recently became the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy. The United Kingdom now produces more renewable energy than fossil fuels. South Africa began to transition from coal directly to renewables, bypassing natural gas altogether. We can all learn from other nations taking the lead!
While any efforts are a good start, we need to realize that the harmful impacts of fossil fuels will not affect people equally, and that very fact requires action. The effects of fossil fuels will fall primarily on already vulnerable communities across the globe. For example, coal-rich regions, like Sumatra, an island in Indonesia, already face large amounts of air and water pollution due to energy resource extraction. In the United States, pipelines laid over Indigenous lands to transport oil and gas demonstrate the unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples and their cultural heritage. Indigenous groups are forcibly displaced and lands upended in favor of cheap, depleting, polluting natural gas.
In response to similar threats, activists throughout Africa, like those in the Afrika Vuka movement, oppose domestic and international extraction of their natural resources and development of fossil fuel infrastructure, instead promoting a just transition to renewable energy sources. Movements like this are the key to unlocking a sustainable and equitable future for all.
So what’s standing in the way of utilizing innovations that can build a safer, more healthy, renewable-powered world? First and foremost: money. The fossil fuel industry’s lobbying efforts and campaign contributions pit politicians against progress. This makes it all the more important to use your voice, vote, campaign, advocate, and stand up for clean energy.
We talk a lot about the positives of renewables, but nothing exists in a vacuum. Just because an energy is “clean” does not mean that sourcing, processing, production, and transportation have no impact on the planet or its inhabitants. An eco-friendly, climate-smart approach to renewables is needed. Take pollinator-friendly solar panels, as an example. Beyond generating efficient and clean energy, these go a step further in addressing the ongoing pollinator crisis by surrounding solar panels with native flowers and grasses, providing food for insects and cultivating population growth. It’s a win-win, akin to watering two plants with a single hose.
As most of us don’t choose where our energy comes from, you may be thinking: what can I do about my fossil fuel use right now? If you have access to a renewable energy provider or hybrid/electric car, take advantage of those options. And we can all reduce our total energy consumption, critical in achieving near and long-term climate goals. Use energy more efficiently when at home: turn off lights, open windows instead of using A/C or heating when possible, limit how long the refrigerator door is open, and take other steps to cut consumption.
As corporations require far greater fossil fuel consumption than individuals, it’s imperative that we support companies that prioritize clean energy use, conservation, and measurable climate commitments. Our partner, Nature’s Path, vows to “leave the earth better than we found it.” And is doing that with six pillars of sustainability, which include reducing energy consumption and purchasing carbon credits to offset carbon usage, among other specific steps.
We can begin to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and work to make them a thing of the past. Put pressure on your elected officials at all levels, local communities, businesses, and universities to limit energy use and make the shift to renewable sources. As our partner Green America outlines with in-depth research, information, news and campaigns, we must both fight dirty energy and grow clean energy. Together, such a world is possible.
Read this article about fossil fuel racism. Then research fossil fuel plants and refineries located near your home, neighborhood, city and surrounding areas.
Look at this map of power plants in the United States or research power plants in your community if you are in a country other than the US. Has your community been impacted by such systems? How so? Why or why not? Does your community benefit from energy produced at the closest plant? How do racism and the growth of fossil fuel industries intersect?
Write a short (250 words) summary of what you find in your research. Consider including:
Post a powerful visual about the intersection of environmental justice and fossil fuels on Instagram with a clear, concise caption. Tag @TurningGreenOrg (in the caption and image!), @GreenAmerica_ and #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF document with your visual and narrative incorporated and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload.
Transitions to renewable energy require policy change, which means electing leaders who champion and support policies that usher in a sustainable energy future. So we must become informed about the energy platforms of our candidates and elected officials!
Research a few local, regional, or national politicians’ stances on renewable energy. If your local politicians support renewable energy and are engaged in fighting the fossil fuel industry, pick one and summarize their stances and upon what you agree. Post a shoutout on Instagram about climate smart policies and politicians, tagging @TurningGreenOrg and the politician/s handle/s, as well as #PGC2022.
If your representatives or local leaders do not support renewable energy or have a pro-fossil fuel platform, reach out to one (or two or more!) and ask them to reconsider! Pull facts from our partner Green America’s resources. Write a clear letter in support of renewable energy with a specific ask. Send it to them via email or through their website. Post a short version of the ask on Instagram, tagging the politician/s and @TurningGreenOrg, as well as #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF document with your responses and letter and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
Powering our future sustainably requires innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and a collective determination to turn away from fossil fuels. How must our society’s relationship with energy change in order to protect our planet from the harmful byproducts of extractive energy production?
Think deeply about your relationship with energy. Since we can’t physically see the energy that drives our lives, our relationship is different than that with more tangible resources like food and water. So let’s make it a bit more tangible.
For 24 hours, make a note of each and every time you consume energy. Strive to jot down everything — from turning on lights in a classroom to charging your phone, hopping on the bus to powering up your coffee maker, to much much more.
Next, do your research.
Then, reflect on this activity.
Finally, create a slideshow designed to alter people’s relationship with energy using your findings and reflections. Share that presentation with at least six people. Try and give a presentation in front of a classroom or dorm if you can!
Post the slideshow (in full or in part) and a picture of you delivering the presentation along with some thoughts about your relationship with energy on Instagram. Tag @TurningGreenOrg, @GreenAmerica_ and #PGC2022.
Upload a PDF document with your slideshow and narrative and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, and school on your upload to be eligible to win.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each winner will receive: