Unraveling the Climate Whodunnit: A Challenging of Identity and Belief

By Naomie Chien|October 19, 2023

This article is part of our Youth Voices series. At Ten Strands we believe that young people have valuable perspectives and a critical role in shaping our society and our world. We recognize their power to drive dialogue and create positive change and are committed to providing a platform which amplifies their contributions.

Crimson yarn dances across the fabric of my mind as I attempt to understand the climate whodunnit. I hoped to uncover the core of climate change and injustice. I wished to unearth the silver bullet that can strike the root of global warming in one fell swoop. However, as I came to open my ears, eyes, and heart to the community around me, narratives complicate and are reborn. To understand this enigma, we must look back to my immigrant parents and their journeys from the island of Taiwan to North American soil. 

At a young age, my hopeful parents came to America in search of opportunity. They chose a place where the mountains and beaches meet, where I could grow up surrounded by the diverse, thriving ecosystems of California. Moreover, they chose a place that claimed complete freedom of education, advocacy, and choice. When I realized that climate change would devastate ecosystems and future generations alike, I decided to pursue the preservation of the planet. Just as a forensics analysis would start with the cold, hard evidence, I raced toward the irrefutable facts behind the science of climate change. My seventh-grade self decided then and there that climate change was a problem of science. Although humans emit over thirty-seven billion units of carbon dioxide annually, we neglect to reverse our negative impacts on the environment. The atmosphere was physically incapable of releasing enough heat, therefore causing warming in the climate. Yet, as I questioned the solutions to climate change, I came to identify dozens of viable and tangible scientific solutions—none of which had been implemented at grand scales. It seemed as if science itself had been but a red herring in my inquiry of why solutions were not being enacted. 

San Francisco Bay Coastline (2020)
San Francisco Bay Coastline (2020)

A few years later, I learned about policies such as the carbon fee and dividend and the Green New Deal. A new thought emerged in my mind. Without questioning the cause, I observed that conservative parties were the ones failing to implement these policies. At that time, I quickly grew to believe that the issue of climate change was chiefly political. The stalemate between liberal and conservative parties that locked environmental legislation was preventing the swift action that is essential to combat global warming. Moreover, as the lead of the Divestment Club at my high school, I often felt compelled to reduce tensions between students, the school, and fossil fuel companies to binaries. At times, I felt powerless against the vast political and economic leverage of the fossil fuel industry. Hence, following the strand of political power, I joined hands with the nationwide nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). However, I was yet again met with disappointment when I realized that polarization was not the solution. Speaking with young conservatives in the organization, I realized that political beliefs were not the differentiating factor between the support of environmental action or lack thereof. Take energy, for example: in a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Republicans and conservative-leaning individuals support the development of energy sources besides fossil fuels. Moreover, pushing for extremely radical action only supported by a fraction of the population may result in short-term, non-sustainable change. Although thrown back to the drawing board, I now held more leads hinting to the root cause of climate change and injustice.

U.S. public views on climate and energy, Pew Research Center (2019); Naomie volunteering for conservative tabling at Mountain View Liberty Forum (2023)

After flying out to Capitol Hill with fellow climate education lobbyists from Schools for Climate Action, I was honored to speak with highly informed congresspeople and incredibly successful activists. Subsequently, it came to me mid-conversation when discussing redlining and environmental injustice with activist Roishetta Ozane.

Press conference at Washington, DC, with S4CA students, featuring Roishetta Ozane (2023)
Press conference at Washington, DC, with S4CA students, featuring Roishetta Ozane (2023)

I ultimately realized that when the impacts of pollution and warming are coerced upon the masses who live in poverty, they are not felt by those in power. As such, fossil fuel companies and their sponsors will continue exploiting the land until that climate warmth saturates wealthy and powerful communities. This system, which lacks any clear feedback loop between those who historically have and have not had a voice, gave a substantive answer for many puzzles I had encountered before. While participating in a cultural and academic exchange in Mumbai, India, I spoke with representatives from bp India on the topic of sustainability. I realized that mutual understanding is key to the concept of community sustainability. Once we all realize the reciprocal detriments of climate change on our future, environmental action becomes not only morally just but corporately profitable. Technology and policy alone will not solve the climate conundrum because those who sit in the seats of gold cannot hear the pleas for change. Global warming is, at its core, a problem of human miscommunication and misunderstanding. 

Although this mystery is far from concluded, I set forth to compose the perfect alloy for my silver bullet by combining all my past identities. As a second-generation immigrant daughter, I realized the importance of hope as an activist. As a technology and STEAM-based student, I realized the potential of the growing cleantech and clean energy sector—a sector that could support millions of well-compensated jobs for all skill levels. As an environmental politics nerd, CCL chapter lead, and Divestment Club lead, I knew the necessity of non-partisanship and effective climate policy. And as a global citizen who has listened intently to perspectives around the nation and world, I emphasize the gravity of human connection and understanding. As it turns out, climate change is far from being a problem we can tackle by ourselves with a single solution. Everyone has a place in the climate movement; move by move, the criminal mastermind we call global warming can be taken down if we act fast enough.

Third annual BAYCS summit at San Francisco World Affairs building, featuring former state senate candidate Jackie Fielder and BAYCS members (2023)
Third annual BAYCS summit at San Francisco World Affairs building, featuring former state senate candidate Jackie Fielder and BAYCS members (2023)
Naomie Chien
This article was written by Naomie Chien

Naomie Chien is a rising senior at the Nueva School in San Mateo. While Naomie leads the Divestment Club and Environmental Club at Nueva, she is also a core team member of Bay Area Youth Climate Summit (BAYCS) and the Silicon Valley North chapter leader of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. By integrating STEAM+ transdiscipline to issues such as climate injustice and environmental policy, Naomie is able to spearhead climate leadership in a hopeful and engaged manner.


  • Lucy

    I loved your article. And I believe it all. I do think we will have to develop better incentives than just profit, and at the heart of it, we will have to confront those blinded by power and by the fear of us.