Cuthbert-Cyan

Cyan Cuthbert is taking a stand for the environment. 

On Sept. 20, as noted here then, millions of people – most of them school-age children – engaged in a climate strike, leaving work or school to protest the lack of adult action on climate change. Looking for a student’s perspective on the issue, I approached Roxborough’s acclaimed Saul High School to find a student who might have participated in the climate strike at City Hall.

Assistant Principal Gabriel Tuffs steered me to Cyan Cuthbert, a 14-year-old freshman who lives in Germantown. She elected to leave school that day to join the millions of kids across the planet who climate-striked. I offered her a chance to write to tell you why she is worried about climate change.

Her reference to 12 years comes from a widely reported U.N. study that gives that number as the timetable to significantly lower carbon emissions – missing that window of opportunity would be hugely problematic, say the authors. But that number is now often used in discussions of climate change as a benchmark, like in the Democratic debates. The reference to Lil Dicky will likely pass most readers by. A Cheltenham native, Lil Dicky is a comic-rapper who released a video, “We Love the Earth,” featuring many prominent entertainers – Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Hart, to name a few – as animated animals in an ear-wormy song that steers kids like Cyan to a website with additional information. Not a fan of the weirdly R-rated song, but whatever it takes.

So with very little editing and in her own voice, here is a Saul freshman writing about her future.

Thank you, Cyan – and thank you, Gabe.

I was born in Germany Nov. 26, 2004, at 8:28 a.m. That's when the world started. Endless Possibilities, the world revolved around me. I had my whole life ahead of me dot-dot-dot now I only have 12 more years.

Both my parents were in the Army. My mom did 13 years, my dad did 10. During this time, my parents did a lot of traveling. They've been to Hawaii, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and tons more. I've been to a few of those places with them when I was younger but I can barely remember; that's why I want to travel the world when I get older and graduate college. If I'm doing my math right and if I only do four years in college, I'll be out when I'm 24 or 25. In 12 years I'll be 26.

I'm pretty sure Lil Dicky said it best in his “We Love the Earth” website when he said, “Everything we do on Earth is having a chain reaction.” Everything we do affects the world in a cycle of things. Once you realize how bad it is you'll see the sadness behind it, too. When the world gets warmer, which is happening, the polar ice caps melt and the water goes into the ocean, then the ocean level rises, then floods occur and people die. The people that survived lose shelter and food. Meanwhile things in the ocean stop working right and people that rely on the ocean for fishing can't get to it. The reality is they will die of starvation, too.

Something crazy I learned throughout this whole thing was that if we let the temperature get only 1 degree Celsius hotter than it is right now there will be no turning back, because if we do, the damage is done. The reason I joined this movement and a thing that pushes me to do better is knowing that I am able to save people. We are able to save each other, ourselves, and our beautiful Earth.

Sept. 20, 2019, was the climate strike. I saw so many kids, adults, and elderly people there. It felt so good to know I was a part of the change. It still isn't right though. It doesn't make sense, how come we had to stop our education to teach you guys a lesson.

I want everybody to know that not all heroes wear capes. You can help and do your part. Every Saturday at 12 p.m. go outside to a nearby park or on your block and just pick up trash. Take a bus or ride your bike to school or work to save gas and help stop polluting our air. That's what some of my teachers do at W.B. Saul High School.

I'm going to use Lil Dicky’s basketball analogy. We’re in the fourth quarter, a timeout has been called and we have the ball. We need a plan because we only have one more shot, if we make it we win (survival), but if we miss the shot we lose (death). We can win the game if we change three things: how we create our food, energy and nature. Watch all of the welovetheearth.org videos to find out how.

Mike Weilbacher directs the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Upper Roxborough, tweets @SCEEMike and can be reached at mike@schuylkillcenter.org. Freshman Cyan Cuthbert ‘23 attends Walter B. Saul High School, also in Upper Roxborough.

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