This essay by Newark student Sudipa Chowdhury took the second-place prize in the Delaware Interfaith Power & Light RENEW (Reflective Essays on Nature, Earth and Their Wonders) 2023 Essay Contest. Essays were submitted by 44 Delaware high schoolers, and the top 10 received cash awards.
Running along the beach and escaping the grasp of the waves as they hit the sand was undoubtedly the highlight of my summers as a kid.
We somehow always ended up going on a cloudy day, so there was no sun beating down on me. I remember how huge the waves were and how ominous they seemed creeping towards the shore. I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t scared to go in. There was an unknown power in each of the waves, and I can’t tell if it was just my overactive, childish thoughts, but I could tell they were drawing nearer every time. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every bit of our trips to the beach. I was stumbling at the edge of the water, flinging sand towards my brother, collecting the prettiest shells, and complaining about the rocks that bore into my feet with every step. I would take in one last breath of the salty sea air before transitioning from the wet sand to the dry side and making my way to the boardwalk.
I left that beach every time knowing that we would make our return next year. Perhaps then the waves wouldn’t tower over me and I could actually jump over them. I was burning with anticipation to drive to the beach again when my parents unexpectedly told us we couldn’t go.
The beach had been “washed over” as I recall them saying. I was heartbroken thinking that the beach was gone, drifting away into the vast ocean, never to be stepped on again. While I believed that the beach I so unconditionally loved had been “washed over” and dragged down to Davy Jones’ locker, that was just a dramatic version of the situation that my parents had led me to believe.
In truth, the beach had been eroded to the extent that the local government had to temporarily close it down and wouldn’t allow anyone on it for quite some time. It’s a problem that extends beyond just our local beach. As we witness sea levels rising over the years, coastal erosion is much more common in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Not only are beaches being closed down, but erosion has led to major soil damage, loss of land, and deterioration of plant and animal habitats. While the damage done by coastal erosion is only one brick in the wall of global climate change that surrounds us, it is one that is native to Delaware and it is one that we have to make advances towards defeating.
While large scale processes may have a powerful impact like supranational organizations prioritizing measures to combat climate change or the U.S. government passing legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are not going to see many of those processes affecting our singular community, at least in the years to come. Making small scale advancements is what sets a rising, prepared community apart from one that is sinking and susceptible to the effects of unpredictable environmental changes. With one step at a time, with each measure we take, and with every solution we come up with, I assure you, we will build up into a force strong enough to break down the wall that barricades us and find a way to protect the land we live on.
It is pretty daunting to me and our youth staring down the issue of climate change and feeling like the only thing we can do as individuals is stop using the AC, but we have to realize that we have so much more power and the ability to make a resounding impact. This power is something that even the UN recognizes. The UN’s official website presented an article regarding how young leaders played a huge role in the Climate Promise and now have a say in future climate change agreements. As the article describes, these young leaders have “raised awareness in their communities, promoted lifestyle changes and concrete solutions” and demanded advancements to be made towards fixing climatic behavior.
At this point, we can understand that small community changes have to be made and that the young people of these communities clearly have the power to do so, but we still haven’t answered how it can be done.
In one word, it can be done together.
By collaborating with peers and other students, the youth of Delaware is bound to come up with creative solutions to combat climate change, as well as environmental issues within our state. Already we observe green policies being set up in schools, volunteer programs to clean up creeks, the promotion of electrical school buses, and so much more. All in all, the small ideas and the small scale advances that we as students make will pay off in the future. While right now we can make sure we keep our school clean and eco-friendly, eventually our actions will build up when we hold higher power and make sure we can keep all of Delaware clean.
When the school year was coming to an end, we were preparing for another trip to the beach. My excitement has built up over the years, and I physically cannot wait to feel the sand again. This time I will likely notice how high the waves rise above me and how there is way less sand and rocks than there once was, but perhaps some years from now, on a future beach trip, the waves won’t tower as high as they do now. I can run down the shoreline and walk away from waves as they hit the sand knowing that it won’t reach me, and knowing that we played a part in making sure we never feel “washed over” ever again