I didn’t find out for quite some time that being a vegetarian actually helps the environment. It was only after watching Food Inc. that I realized how much energy it takes to produce meat and how harmful it is to the environment. Before that, I never cared where my food came from. And most of us still do not consider it. Maybe we just don’t know because there is no transparency within this industry. Maybe it is because we have heard rumors about what goes on behind our food production, but we just do not want to know. It is only natural.

In the wake of the COP21 climate talks in Paris that ended last week, the conversations I’m hearing about climate change on my campus and social media ring stoutly pessimistic.

But I’m not buying the doom and gloom.

I’m a self-proclaimed optimist.

While I appreciate all the “realists” out there, I charge you to take a moment and consider how everything in life is just a matter of perspective, and in this case, framing the conversation.

In the weeks leading up to COP21, the UN Climate Negotiations, I had fantasized about walking the cobblestone streets of Paris, filling my nose with the smell of pastries, and feeling the romantic rhythm of Paris’s bustling energy. Then, the horrific terrorist attacks occurred just days before my flight was to arrive. As I boarded the shuttle to attend my first day at COP21, I pushed inside the tight confines of the shuttle’s interior with hundreds of other climate activists, I couldn’t help but feel a nagging sense of fear: What if somebody decided to attack the conference?

Imagine an earthquake has destroyed your house, leveled the homes of all your neighbors. The nearest clinic, which is not very near at all, has suffered structural damage, and landslides make the roads nearly impassible. Even more importantly, the clinic is without electricity and has no mechanism of back-up power.

The Faces of Solar at COP21 (see part I)

Laura Stachel: Eliminating Childbirth Mortalities in Underserved Countries

In 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel traveled to northern Nigeria on a graduate research project. She spent two weeks observing care in a hospital as a part of a research program through University of California, Berkeley. As an obstetrician, her original purpose was to examine how to lower the staggeringly high rates of maternal death.

“Take action.” These are the two words young people are most frequently met with when we ask what we can do about climate change. These are also two of the most frustrating words in the English language. What does “taking action” really mean? Considering the urgency and scale of catastrophic climate change, what can young people do to make a significant difference, and push for the sort of bold solutions we need to protect the one planet we have?

It’s 7:30 pm in Denver, CO, where my Iceland Air flight took off from a few hours ago. After we land, I’ll have a brief stopover in Reykjavik en route to Paris, France. Following years of unsuccessful climate change conferences and the tragic and barbaric attacks on Paris a few weeks ago that almost brought the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to a halt before it’d even begun, the world waits with bated breath to see what will come of these ever-important climate change negotiations.