Sustainability and the environment are the most important voting issues right now.

As students prepare to send in their absentee ballots for the presidential election or show up to the polls for election day to pick their local officials, one issue they should be closely considering is the environment.

In a 2018 report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it was stated that 12 years are left to turn the fight against climate change around. Other sources such as Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute set a much more stringent deadline of mere months.

Therefore, sustainability and the environment are the most important issue facing voters right now in choosing a candidate because it is the most important issue facing our planet.

It is natural, especially in a time in which many of us are experiencing great personal struggles, to find it difficult to envision and plan for the future. Especially when, in light of COVID-19, the future is so uncertain, so changed, that it feels painful to even imagine. While we cannot say for certain right now what the future will look like, what hardship and tragedy and sacrifice we will have to make to get there, it will come. When it does, we and our children and our grandchildren will need to live in it.

In order to live, we need a healthy planet.

“Many of the global health challenges that we face today, including infectious diseases, malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases are all linked to the decline of biodiversity and ecosystems,” Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a commentary on the WHO website.

I know that planning for a sustainable future for our planet and humanity requires some foresight. It also requires some sacrifice; giving up certain fields of work in exchange for safer, more sustainable work. However, the effects of why this change is necessary are right in front of us, right now.

From forest fire after forest fire to hurricane after hurricane, each more devastating than the last, it is easy to see that the imbalance we’ve created on the planet has taken a deadly toll, and we will keep paying this cost until something changes.

Change is not easy. It requires a lot of things. Mostly, it requires a keen empathy, for your fellow man and the planet and species which inhabit it alongside you that allow you to eat and breathe and thrive. Empathy for your children and their children and their children and the future you are passing down to them, like a gift or a curse through generations and generations of choices.

Your parents and their parents and their parents all made choices that shaped the planet you live in now, the face of it, riddled with trash, pocked with cavernous landfills, the water, undrinkable, the air, unbreathable, the planet’s resources, dwindling, like sand slipping through an hourglass.

It is true: time is running out.

However, there are still choices to be made which can help save our planet starting with picking leaders who value the health of our planet.

Right now, that choice is yours.

To find out different political candidates stances on sustainability and the environment visit Vote Climate U.S. PAC 2020 Climate Change Voter’s Guide or The Sierra Club Election Center.

Early voting in Montgomery County is still going on this week Monday, Oct. 26- Friday, Oct. 29 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the County Election Commission on 350 Pageant Lane.

If you are unable to early or vote on election day, you may be eligible to vote by mail.