Why the space race should inspire climate-minded young people

Climate change weighs heavily on the minds of young people. Four in 10 say they fear having children because of climate change, and in a recent study, two-thirds of participants indicated that climate change made them feel "afraid, sad, and anxious.” Descriptors such as angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty also appeared. Over half of the young people surveyed believe that governments have failed to respond adequately to climate change.

Why the space race should inspire climate-minded young people
Private Spaceflight Explainer
In this July 11, 2021 photo provided by John Kraus, from left, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski, Jared Isaacman and Sian Proctor float during a zero gravity flight out of Las Vegas. The plane, a modified Boeing 727, flies multiple parabolic arcs to provide 20-30 seconds of weightlessness. (John Kraus/Inspiration4 via AP)

Why the space race should inspire climate-minded young people

Climate change weighs heavily on the minds of young people. Four in 10 say they fear having children because of climate change, and in a recent study, two-thirds of participants indicated that climate change made them feel "afraid, sad, and anxious.” Descriptors such as angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty also appeared. Over half of the young people surveyed believe that governments have failed to respond adequately to climate change.

As the American political arena often places sport above service, it is no wonder that young people feel failed by our institutions. While solutions to climate change may feel distant, there is reason to be hopeful.

On Wednesday, SpaceX sent four civilians into space. The launch, dubbed Inspiration4, made history as the first-ever all-civilian space flight. Space, for centuries, has inspired millions, and we have only scratched the surface of exploring the great unknown. Our continued exploration of space speaks to the best qualities in the American spirit: curiosity, tenacity, ingenuity. The incredible lengths we have gone to in a quest for knowledge is a reflection of the things our nation can achieve when we work toward a goal. These truly American values continue to guide our nation as we push for progress on all fronts, whether it be space exploration or climate change.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy famously remarked, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” Reflecting on those words all these years later, we are met with a truth: Together, we have achieved unthinkable things.

Our position as a global leader underscores the power we have to improve society for all. The values we live by have allowed innovation to improve the quality of life for people around the world with the automobile, air travel, and even smartphones. These things, such as space exploration, were once beyond our wildest dreams. Generation after generation, this country has made economic and social progress in the name of liberty and equality. It is possible for us to achieve more.

Climate change may seem insurmountable, but when faced with adversity, the American spirit has triumphed. There is much more to learn and much more to be done. While we work toward a brighter future, let us remember that generations before us could have never imagined sending four ordinary people into space. With this event, our country was again able to witness something that once seemed impossible.

We’ve sent human life into space. We can solve climate change. We may not be able to envision a time beyond the problems we now face, but that time can and must exist.

The potential that this nation holds is infinite. Our fellow citizens will band together to demand climate action. Our innovative minds will develop more technologies to reduce carbon emissions efficiently. And people know that while this nation is imperfect, we must continuously strive to do and be better.

If the Inspiration4 launch proved anything, it’s that the seemingly impossible can be possible. Young people facing climate anxiety should find relief in the knowledge that better days are ahead of us. Together, we can continue to improve our home. When it comes to fights such as combating climate change and going to the moon, we can continue to bet on America. It is the American way to learn, grow, and come together.

Danielle Butcher is the executive vice president at the American Conservation Coalition.

© 2021 Washington Examiner